MiLB players, pandemic assistance, and a $15 minimum wage

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A new president, a new White House administration, and a Senate that could actually pass some Democratic party laws without being blocked by the Republicans on everything means we might actually see, well, some of that. Of course, this new era is also opening up with Joe Biden et al trying to tell you that they always meant $1,400 checks when they said $2,000 checks, and that they plan on reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans instead of just leveraging the power they’ve been entrusted with by voters to forcibly slap some bandages over a country that has no hope of stopping the bleeding, but hey. Optimism, or something.

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MLB takes small step to improving MiLB pay

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Major League Baseball isn’t about to give Minor League Baseball players another pay raise anytime soon — even if the one they did promise for 2021 is still lacking — but they have agreed to a welcome change with players’ money all the same. That’s because, according to Baseball America, 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.

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Senne v. MLB secures win after Supreme Court decision

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Lost in the shuffle of postseason news came a major development for an ongoing lawsuit against Major League Baseball. Senne v. MLB — the shorthand way of referring to Aaron Senne et al v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp — will keep the class action status that it won last August. In January of 2020, the Ninth Circuit court denied MLB’s request to rescind that class action status, and now, 10 months later, the Supreme Court has done the same.

Garrett Broshuis, a former minor-league player himself who is now a lawyer fighting for MiLB players past and present, expected that MLB would try the Supreme Court appeal route back when I spoke with him about the class action status being granted in 2019. That was MLB’s last option against a lawsuit that has been on a roll in the courts: Senne v. MLB will now resume “in the coming months,” per Jeff Passan, as there are no further courts for MLB to appeal to.

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The Professional Baseball Agreement expires today

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​What’s been in the news for well over a year now has finally come to pass: the Professional Baseball Agreement between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball has come to an end. The two sides are still discussing a new deal — there is no impasse in a one-sided negotiation — and when it’s finally signed, it will bring massive change to the structure of the minors and the teams within it.

As things stand, MiLB is going to see roughly 40 teams disaffiliated. Those clubs and their owners will have the option of going independent, with MLB paying whatever fees are required for entry into an independent league, or becoming a wood bat team for college players. MLB is, of course, also partnering with independent leagues like the Atlantic, Frontier, and Pioneer, and while it’s unclear what exactly being a “partner” league means, we see how MLB treats its current partner, MiLB: by getting rid of the implied subservience and just straight-up taking away their autonomy and shrinking them.

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How are MiLB players going to live during the offseason, mid-pandemic?

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​Minor League Baseball players have to work in the offseason. Maybe not every minor-league player — a few early draft picks might have received large enough signing bonuses to avoid that fate, and the players on 40-man rosters are making a living wage thanks to being part of the Players Association with the protections and benefits that entail. But the vast majority of the thousands upon thousands of minor leaguers are making sub-poverty level wages, and for just a few months per year. In order to pay rent, eat, and continue to be able to train for their career, these players need to find second jobs to sustain themselves.

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MLB plans to replace MiLB teams with clubs full of unpaid players

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Major League Baseball still hasn’t unveiled what their plan is for replacing one-quarter of Minor League Baseball’s teams, but there have been enough leaks and reporting on the subject at this point that we’re still pretty clear on what’s next. Minor League Baseball teams that are being pushed out of MLB affiliations will still get to have teams of a sort, but the 1,000 players whose jobs are now on the line? They are being replaced
with a workforce that is somehow paid even less: independent players and college baseball players.

Baseball America has reported for months about how college wood bat leagues were one of the potential replacements for the disaffiliated clubs, and now ESPN is reporting, with a week to go before MLB formally proposes a plan to Minor League Baseball, that this and “encouraging” disaffiliated clubs to go independent with MLB paying the franchise fees for entry is the direction that’ll be taken:

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MLB teams can now open instructional camps, but only if they pay players

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Shrinking the minors will cost more than players their jobs

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NCAA player organizing should inspire MiLB players to unionize

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Some MLB teams still haven’t promised to pay minor leaguers in August

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