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Let’s hop back to November 16 of 2020 for a moment:
MLB itself has proposed paying MiLB’s clubhouse attendants and providing (or paying for) meals before games.
Previously, clubhouse attendants were paid in clubhouse dues, which were the responsibility of the players, and a small stipend from the teams. This system was a ridiculous one even in the majors, where the minimum salary for players has been a whole lot better in the 50-plus years since the union negotiated what that figure was, but in the minors, where the vast majority of players are earning poverty-level wages? It was just another form of theft, where MiLB teams and MLB teams got away with not covering one of the essential pieces of the locker room by forcing the players to essentially tip the person doing their laundry so that they had clean clothes and the clubbie could make a living. MLB players, by the way, no longer have to pay clubbies, as of the 2017 collective bargaining agreement. MiLB had not yet escaped this awful setup, but will if this new policy is adopted.
As Baseball America projects it, players are looking at, depending on their level and pay, to save $40-100 per week in addition to the increase in pay they were expected to see in 2021, anyway.
As I got into back then, dues were an unnecessary burden on players who already were strapped for cash: there was no reason teams shouldn’t have been paying clubhouse attendants to begin with, and that the players were ever forced to be the ones handling the compensation for someone working for the clubs was absurd. Apparently this conversation needs to happen again, because even though players aren’t supposed to be responsible for dues anymore, according to what Advocates for Minor Leaguers has seen and heard, at least four MLB clubs are requiring minor-league players to pay clubhouse dues during spring training.
Add the @twins to this list.
— Advocates for Minor Leaguers (@MiLBAdvocates) April 1, 2022
The White Sox, Dodgers, Nationals, and Twins have all posted notices requiring amounts from $3 per day to one request for $115. Advocates has demanded these players to be reimbursed, and they better be: again, the teams are supposed to be taking care of this, and if this has suddenly become optional, then that’s some slimy backtracking on their part. Minor-league players haven’t received a paycheck since last August, and during the spring, are given a stipend to pay for housing, meals, and so on. Players sometimes have to work a second job even during spring training in order to make more money to get by — remember Randy Dobnak, Spring Training Uber Driver? — so the fact that they need to pull from their stipend that’s supposed to be used for necessities in order to now pay clubhouse dues is absurd.
It might not seem like all that much money, but minor-league players aren’t paid all that much, and they aren’t supposed to have been responsible for dues anymore at all. It’s both a burden and the principle of the thing here. And that we don’t know why it’s happening again, or why it’s just with some teams, only makes it that much more maddening. Did these four clubs just decide on their own that it was still required that players tip the clubbie instead of the teams simply paying them a living wage for their job? Is it now optional league-wide? Are we about to see a flood of updates like this from a majority of teams instead of just a few of them?
It’s something to keep an eye on, and all I know for sure is that I’m not going to like whatever the answer ends up being.
Next Tuesday evening, I’m going to join host Shakeia Taylor on SABR’s monthly Ballpark Figures interview series. It’s a free event open to all Society for American Baseball Research members, which you can register for here if that’s you, and you can probably guess what I’m there to discuss and answer questions about: labor! The lockout might be over, but labor remains a major issue in both MLB and MiLB, so I’ve still got plenty to say, and I’m sure I’ll be discussing the shape of the new collective bargaining agreement as well.
So, at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday, April 5, come on by if you’ve got some questions or just want to see this interview and Q&A play out over Zoom. And if you miss it, SABR does host replays of the event on their website: last month’s show featured Jessica Luther, whose work in investigative journalism and sports is vital.
That Ballpark Figures appearance will actually be the only bit of work I do next week. I haven’t taken a non-holiday break from my newsletters and editing and freelancing for… well, since I was able to request vacation days at my old job, I guess. So, with the lockout over and the new CBA active, it felt like a good time to take a week off and come back reinvigorated and ready to yell about service-time manipulation and the treatment of minor-league players. You’ll hear from me again in this space on 4/11: thank you for reading, for subscribing, and for helping to give me the chance to be completely exhausted by my lockout workload.