MLB commissioner Rob Manfred insists minor leaguers DO earn a residing wage at $15,000 or much less
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is dismissing claims that minor league players aren’t being paid a living wage despite the fact that most make between $4,800 and $15,400, annually.
Given the chance to address ongoing labor issues within minor league baseball ahead of Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles, Manfred rejected a question from Yahoo! Sports’ Hannah Keyser, who asked if he believes the players do deserve a living wage.
‘I reject the premise that they’re not paying a living wage,’ Manfred said, as quoted by several reporters.
Manfred, who will reportedly earn $17.5 million in 2022 including bonuses, was immediately condemned by Advocates for Minor Leaguers, an activist group that has raised awareness about living conditions for players toiling with MLB affiliate clubs.
‘Most Minor League baseball players work second jobs because their annual salaries are insufficient to make ends meet,’ read a statement Advocates for Minor Leaguers director Harry Marino. ‘The commissioner makes an annual salary of $17.5 million. His suggestion that Minor League pay is acceptable is both callous and false.’
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is dismissing claims that minor league players aren’t being paid a living wage despite the fact that most make between $4,800 and $15,400, annually
Pitcher Kai-Wei Lin #5 and catcher Juan Centeno #8 of the Amarillo Sod Poodles talk on the mound during the game against the Midland RockHounds at HODGETOWN Stadium on May 7
Manfred’s comments come after he was asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee to justify the sport’s antitrust exemption, which has allegedly been used to suppress the wages of minor league players.
Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who chairs the committee, and Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is the ranking minority member, sent the letter Monday and asked Manfred to respond by July 26 to a series of questions that could be a prelude to proposed legislation further limiting an exemption created by a 1922 Supreme Court decision.
‘Your answers will help inform the Senate Judiciary Committee’s analysis of the necessity of this century-old exemption,’ said the letter, also signed by Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Senator Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah.
The letter is the next step after a similar request for information the four senators sent last month to an advocacy group for minor leaguers. The executive director of the nonprofit Advocates for Minor Leaguers has recommended Congress enact legislation nullifying the application of the exemption to minor leaguers.
‘We look forward to providing detailed information to the committee regarding baseball’s limited antitrust exemption and how it has provided franchise location stability at the major league level, maximized the availability of minor-league baseball for fans and quality employment opportunities for aspiring major leaguers,’ the league said in a statement.
Las Vegas Aviators shortstop Nick Allen (2) dives back to first base on an attempted pick-off during a Triple-A Minor League Baseball game between the Reno Aces and the Aviators
ESPN’s Mina Kimes is curious what Rob Manfred considers a living wage
Nick Francona, the son of Cleveland skipper Terry said it’s the ‘most Rob Manfred quote ever’
Senators asked about the potential impact of repealing 2018 legislation exempting minor league players from federal minimum wage and overtime laws – the Save America’s Pastime Act – and whether the antitrust exemption played a role in MLB’s decision in 2020 to cut minor league affiliations from a minimum of 160 to 120.
They also asked whether MLB would commit to maintaining 120 affiliates when current 10-year player development license agreements expire after the 2030 season.
Advocates for Minor Leaguers said in a statement that it believes the exemption ‘has had dire consequences for minor league baseball players and fans. ‘
Major league players on 40-man rosters, including those on option to the minors, are represented by the Major League Baseball Players Association. More than 90% of the several thousand players in the minors are not unionized.
In a proposed lawsuit settlement filed Friday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, MLB agreed to pay minor leaguers $185 million to settle alleged violations of minimum wage laws. An early estimate is that perhaps 23,000 players could share the money with an average payment of $5,000 to $5,500, and the settlement says $55.5 million will go the players’ lawyers.
Senators asked for MLB’s opinion on how its structure compares with those of the NFL, NBA and NHL, and what justifies maintaining the exemption for baseball. In the past, baseball officials have stressed the exemption allows them to prohibit teams from changing cities without MLB approval.
Tristin English of the Amarillo Sod Poodles celebrates with teammates after hitting a home run during the game against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals at HODGETOWN Stadium on July 3
Senators inquired about the exemption’s impact on work stoppages – which is not at all since the Curt Flood Act of 1998 applied antitrust laws to MLB affecting the employment of major league players at the major league level.
‘Please discuss the impact, if any, of the antitrust exemption on the negotiation of minor league players’ length of contract, wages, housing, or other working conditions,’ they wrote. ‘What effect would removing the antitrust exemption have on minor league player working conditions and wages? If a more tailored approach, like extending the Curt Flood Act to cover minor league players and operations, was taken, what would be the impact? Please describe any provision of the CFA that should or should not cover minor league players and why.’
They asked about MLB’s view of the impact on minor league players of the 1922 Supreme Court decision involving the Federal League that created the exemption, of last year’s Supreme Court decision ruling the NCAA can’t limit education-related benefits that colleges can offer sports stars (NCAA v. Alston) and the Justice Department’s statement of interest in a pending lawsuit filed by four minor league teams urging that ‘lower courts should limit the ”baseball exemption” to conduct that is central to the business of offering professional baseball games to the public.’
In addition, they asked about the exemption’s impact on corruption in the international amateur signing market.
Birmingham Barons pitcher Jimmy Lambert throws a pitch during a Double-A game between the Barons and the Montgomery Biscuits at Rickwood Field, America’s oldest baseball park
MLB is the only of America’s four major professional team sports leagues that has an antitrust exemption, which allows the league to suppress wages and otherwise avoid federal anti-monopoly laws.
By allowing for the uniform player contract, MLB’s antitrust exemption prevents minor leaguers from seeking better pay with another franchise. As a result, most minor leaguers are making between $4,800 and $15,400 in 2022. (The federal poverty threshold in most states is $13,590 in salary)
‘Minor league players are far and away the group most negatively impacted by baseball’s antitrust exemption,’ Marino said in a statement last month.
‘MLB owners should not have a special license to underpay their workers. We are confident that Congress will recognize as much through this process and, ultimately, repeal baseball’s antitrust exemption as it relates to issues concerning minor league players.’
Pictured: Chuck Grassley (Republican-Iowa), right, and Mike Lee (Republican-Utah), left
Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee addressed a letter detailing its concerns to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a group dedicated to improving living and working conditions for minor league players, who are at the mercy of MLB
The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of senators, including Dick Durbin (Democrat-Illinois), Chuck Grassley (Republican-Iowa), Richard Blumenthal (Democrat-Connecticut) and Mike Lee (Republican-Utah)
Pictured: Dick Durbin (Democrat-Illinois), left, and Richard Blumenthal (Democrat-Connecticut), right
In 2021, minor leaguers gained sympathy after sharing pictures of dinners they were served
Lee has previously introduced legislation called the Competition in Professional Baseball Act aimed at removing the exemption, and received support from several Republicans, including Ted Cruz (Texas) and Josh Hawley (Missouri).
‘There’s no reason that Major League Baseball should be treated any differently than any other professional sports leagues in America,’ Lee said last year. ‘No reason why they ought to have preferential treatment relative to the NFL, or the NBA, or any other professional athletic organization.’
After successfully lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from federal minimum wage laws, MLB did raise wages between 38 percent and 72 percent when the minor leagues returned in 2021 from a one-season absence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One anonymous player shared video of his car, which he had been sleeping in last year
Players at rookie levels saw the weekly minimum rise from $290 to $400, players at Class A from $290 to $500, at Double-A from $350 to $600 and at Triple-A from $502 to $700. Players are paid only in-season.
The minor league minimum for players on the 40-man roster was $46,600 last season for a player signing his first major league contract, and $93,000 for a player signing a second or later major league contract. For players in the major leagues, however, the minimum was $570,500.
The good news for minor leaguers is that housing is less of an issue in 2022 than it was previously.
MLB announced last fall that for the first time, around 90 percent of minor league players would be guaranteed furnished housing during the season in their home city — an expense of tens of millions of dollars for the 30 major league teams combined.
The pledge was celebrated by players, who have long struggled to find short-term housing on short notice with incomes that routinely fall below the federal poverty line at $12,880 for individuals, even after MLB raised minimum salaries the previous year.
While teams generally arrange for hotel accommodations for road trips, players largely had been left to find their own housing for homestands until MLB updated its housing policy.
The level of assistance provided by teams had always varied wildly, with lower-level affiliates sometimes arranging host families for younger players, and some organizations offering housing stipends to some or all players.
The Houston Astros became the first team in baseball to provide furnished apartments to all players when they did so for the 2021 season.
Traditionally, players have been left to handle housing on their own, usually seeking short-term leases on little notice with a limited budget. It wasn’t uncommon for teammates to overcrowd apartments and sleep on air mattresses. One player and his girlfriend in 2019 even took the unusual step of living in a renovated school bus.
In one viral video, members of the St. Louis Cardinals Double-A affiliate in Springfield, Missouri were seen sleeping on the floor and atop rows of chairs in a hotel conference room
With the help of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, players circulated videos and pictures on social media showing their living conditions.
In many cases, players were packed into hotel rooms. In one, members of the St. Louis Cardinals Double-A affiliate in Springfield, Missouri were seen sleeping on the floor of a hotel conference room.
Another player shared videos of the setup in his car, where he had been sleeping.
The players who submitted the videos to Advocates for Minor Leaguers were not named, for fear of reprisals.
To raise awareness of the issues, players in the Mets and Phillies organizations staged an on-field protest in 2021 by wearing teal wristbands.
To raise awareness of the issues, players in the Mets and Phillies organizations staged an on-field protest during several games in 2021
The demonstration was organized in part by Advocates for Minor Leaguers, which also handed out pamphlets to fans with suggestions for how MLB could treat minor leaguers better.
In a previous statement, the group called out MLB’s anti-monopoly exemption as a key factor in reducing minor leaguers’ compensation and living conditions.
Several Major Leaguers have rushed to the aid of their minor league counterparts amid the economic crunch of the pandemic. Most notably, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price donated $1,000 to each of the franchise’s minor leaguers in 2020 when their season was canceled.
MLB took over operation of the minors from the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues and cut minor league affiliates from 162 to 120 for this past season.
In response to the contraction, four minor league teams sued MLB in federal court over accusations of anticompetitive behavior.
In April, MLB and minor leaguers settled a lawsuit claiming the league violated minimum wage laws. Two sources familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press that the settlement was around $200 million.
Brandon Barriera is congratulated by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred after he was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays as the 23th player in the MLB draft at XBox Plaza at LA Live