Unionizing and improving Minor League Baseball is long overdue
Many minor leaguers are forced to work multiple jobs to support their underpaying dream. So many are forced to give up their dream, not because they aren’t good enough, but because MLB has decided that they aren’t worth a living wage, and they want to live.
With their showing on Saturday, the minor-leaguers involved issued a statement to The Athletic:
"“Minor League baseball players have been severely underpaid and silenced for decades. Today, we are wearing #FairBall wristbands to show our solidarity with every fan and ally who is working to change that. We love the game of baseball, but it needs to evolve. It is time for every Minor Leaguer to be paid a living wage.”"
The basics of minor-leaguer mistreatment are as follows:
- They are only paid in-season. Not for Spring Training or offseason, though they are expected to stay in playing shape. This is hard to do considering most have to take on at least one job in order to make ends meet, since they are only paid for about five months out of the year.
- The few players in the first rounds of the draft are lucky to secure hefty signing bonuses, but most minor-leaguers make between $10,000-$15,000/year before taxes. The 2021 Federal Poverty line for a single person is $12,880, which means hundreds of prospects are living in poverty.
- Minor leaguers often resort to sleeping in their cars, team clubhouses, or cramming as many teammates as they can into one or two-bedroom rentals where they sleep on air mattresses. I personally know several former prospects who have done each of these things.
How can MLB improve minor-league conditions?
While individuals with small platforms can affect change, the most drastic, sweeping change is made by those in power. Minor league baseball players need a union and minimum wage (they are currently exempt), to start. There has been no public progress towards rectifying either of these issues.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest changes MLB has made concerning the minor leagues was to cut over 40 affiliates over the last year. Throughout the process, their claim was that by winnowing down the number of affiliations, there would be more money allocated to the remaining teams, their facilities, and prospects.
Of course, every MLB team is valued at over a billion dollars, and this ordeal was wholly unnecessary. Even with the “raises” that prospects such as the ones who donned the bracelets on Saturday received after other teams lost their affiliation, their salaries for the year after raises will amount to less than $12,000. So, while MLB owners sit atop piles of cash, the players who are supposed to be the future of their ballclub are literally living in poverty.