On Friday, while major league ballplayers in Florida and Arizona were squeezing baseball games in between their tee times, Congress and President Trump were changing the rules of the game for minor leaguers.
You thought starting extra innings with a player on second is ridiculous?
It is. We can talk about that later.
Today’s ridiculosity (not a word; should be a word) is a rule change hidden away on Page 1,967 of the $1.3-trillion omnibus spending bill, signed into law by President Trump on Friday, which dramatically changes fair labor laws as they apply to minor leaguers.
From here on out – thanks to President Trump, Congress, and the wealthy team owners who spent more than $1 million lobbying in Washington these past two years – minor leaguers will no longer be protected by minimum wage or overtime regulations.
“Save America’s Pastime Act.” Seriously?
You could put that on a cap.
What it should be called is “Let Wealthy Baseball Owners Pocket More Money At The Expense Of Their Employees.”
The truth is rarely as snappy.
Major league baseball’s gross revenue in 2017 was a record $50 billion. $50 BILLION.
As Emma Gonzalez would say, “I call BS.”
If your eyes are glazing over, know that changes to fair labor practices that affect one group of people can easily become a slippery slope to more and more changes.
This is that slippery slope.
How about this – first they took away the minor leaguer’s right to a minimum wage, then they took away yours (or your child’s or your grandchild’s).
From The Washington Post: “The league has long claimed exemptions for seasonal employees and apprenticeships, allowing its clubs to pay players as little as $1,100 a month, well under the pay that would be dictated under federal minimum wage and overtime standards. But with those exemptions under legal challenge, Major League Baseball has paid lobbyists hundreds of thousands of dollars to write a specific exemption into the law.”
That exemption was quietly slipped into the 2,000-page spending bill and signed into law.
Sneaky. That’s how government works.
Some people argue that a minor league baseball player is lucky to play baseball. He should suck it up, get an off-season job, or just quit if he doesn’t like it. No one’s forcing him to play baseball.
Dear “Some People,” Short-sighted cruelty is not a good look on anybody.
Minor league players get a couple days off a month and don’t have the option of taking extra part-time jobs during the season. Sure, they can get another job during the off-season. There are plenty of employers, offering good pay and benefits, who are looking for young men who are only available September through January. Right?
And, one more tidbit. That powerful Baseball Players’ Association – one of the strongest unions in the country – only looks out for major leaguers. It isn’t concerned about minor league compensation, fair or not.
Major League Players Association
MIT developed a “Living Wage” calculator to explain how far a minimum wage goes, and what a “living wage” would need to be for a single adult to adequately cover basic expenses like food, transportation, housing, medical costs, and taxes.
Federal minimum wage: $7.25. A wage adequate to cover basic living expenses in Virginia: $13.86.
“We’re just talking about basic minimum wage laws here — the same laws that McDonald’s has to comply with, the same laws that Walmart has to comply with. And so surely if Walmart or McDonald’s can find a way to comply with those laws, then Major League Baseball can find a way to comply with them, too,” one lawyer representing minor leaguers told The Washington Post.
High draft players – the ones that you’ve heard of and that’ll get called up in September – are probably doing all right with their bonuses and guarantees. Players at Triple A make more than players at Low A.
Those “names you recognize” guys aren’t making Mike Trout money, but they’re also probably not struggling to pay rent on a tiny apartment in a sketchy part of town that is shared by more teammates than there are bedrooms.
It’s those other guys we should care about.
The ones who fill up the lowest levels, the ones who will never get a shot and are simply just barely good enough to pad the teams so that the one or two Mike Trouts that pass through have teams to play and teammates to play with. The guys who will admit to stealing a jar of peanut butter from the clubhouse because they can’t afford to buy a jar from the Dollar Store. The guys that Editor/Husband calls “fodder.”
There are plenty of them.
You work hard. And, you deserve to be fairly compensated for the work you do. So do they. Simple as that.
That baseball owners, Congress, and the President don’t think so is probably not all that surprising.
When people ask me why I care so much about baseball, I often tell them that I love how the history of baseball reflects us as a nation and as a society. From the Civil War to civil rights, from prohibition to performance-enhancing drugs, from foreign relations to facial hair. It’s all there.
And, in our labor laws, too.
It’s not always pretty. People can be terrible to other people. We do it all the time.
There will be lawsuits. Class action suits representing players, I expect. But, all the while team owners will continue to spend a million here, a million there lobbying Congress and writing fat campaign checks.
In the meantime, there will be players – players you’ve never heard of … never will hear of – who will steal a jar of peanut butter from the clubhouse. Because a wealthy team owner won’t pay them enough to eat.
Everyone Deserves A Right To Earn A #LivingWage
Read more …
Dirk Hayhurst, a pitcher who had a brief stint in the majors, never forgot the “brutal conditions” of minor league ball. Here’s his report from 2014: An Inside Look Into The Harsh Conditions Of Minor League Baseball via Bleacher Report.
I read Lucas Mann’s Class A Baseball In The Middle Of Everywhere a few years ago, and it still stays with me. To see a Low A team, its players, its staff, its fans, and a small Iowa town all just struggling to survive, is chilling and heartbreaking.
The Game: Inside The Secret World Of Baseball’s Power Brokers by Jon Pessah will give you a wonky, but fascinating, tutorial on the business side of baseball and its union relations. (It will also tell you how former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig screwed George W. Bush out of the Commissioner’s job that Selig had promised him, which pretty much altered the course of 21st-century American history.)
Both are available online or at your independent neighborhood book store.
One of the reasons I hate off-season is because that’s the time when the dark, rank underbelly of the Baseball Beast reveals itself. For six months (or more, if we’re lucky), we can immerse ourselves in the fantasy, the legends, the Summerland of Baseball, forgetting the brutal realities of owner’s (and some player’s) greed and things like, yes, the guys at the bottom who play just because they love it, or because they can’t figure out anything else to do.
Thanks for the story, though. This year, as I read about guys being sent “down to the minors”, I’ll think about the guys who never get the call to “come up” to the majors, even for a look-see. I’m grateful that they do it, and I wonder what will happen when they decide to sit out a few games- because, after all, the rising stars (as you point out) have to have a team with which to play.
In any case, thanks for the consciousness raising…I guess.
At the end of the day, baseball for these players is both “game” and “job.” That’s a hard thing to balance and it’s easy for the rest of us to forget the “job” part of it, I think.
After I read “Class A Baseball In The Middle Of Everywhere” which recounts the 2010 season, I stumbled upon David Lamb’s “Stolen Season: A Journey Through America and Baseball’s Minor Leagues” which came out in 1991 … which led me to Lamb’s story 1972 in the LA Times about Garland Shifflett, a career minor leaguer in the 1950s-1960s-1970s that I was writing about. Shifflett became Lamb’s example of how the Players Assn was fighting for, and winning, free agency and pensions for the big leaguers in the early ’70s — benefits that financially struggling minor leaguers wouldn’t receive. It’s not new … it never ends.
Sigh. But, yes, finally baseball! (Although it surprises me that with just a few days to go til Opening Day, the Orioles find themselves with a serviceable 5-man rotation and suddenly it’s the Giants that are 2 men down. Best of luck, John … and may the Giants rebound from their injury bug!)
I remember one of the cries you heard during the 1994 strike was “Who do we decide to support, the Billionaire Owners or the Millionaire Players?” Well, that certainly ignored the Minor Leaguers. Thanks for pointing this out, Bloggess.
Thanks, v. Yup, pensions, free agency, labor protections, all that … somehow the minor leaguers at the very bottom of the baseball ladder always seem to be forgotten. grrrr.
If I’m elected Goddess of the Universe, Trump will be reincarnated as a Calcutta street urchin. A female Calcutta street urchin. A female Calcutta street urchin with a stutter. Give me ten minutes, I’ll pile on more.
I need to register so I can vote in the Goddess of the Universe election … I like your platform! :)
Slippery slope indeed. Thanks for calling out the injustice these players have to live with every day. Wow!
Thanks, Gloria … I write about the influence of money in politics in my real job. Never really expected to be covering the omnibus spending bill on here. But, here we are!
Saying “great article” can’t possibly convey the mixed feelings I have about what I’ve just read, which veer from the incredulous to the infuriated. Excellent research and analysis, Bloggess, and being able to lay blame for the Iraq War squarely at the feet of Bud Selig is strangely satisfying.
Thank you, Perry. The Game is an uber-wonky, but still oddly compelling book. The Selig-Bush story is just a side story, but I found it fascinating. Selig kept promising to hand the Commissioner job over to Bush and Bush kept waiting — totally trusting Selig to keep his word. Waiting and waiting, until Karl Rove finally convinced Bush that Selig couldn’t be trusted and had no intention of stepping down. And, so Bush and Rove started down another path. And … and … well, you know …
Gobsmacked. Totally gobsmacked! Actually, I’ve read other articles about the horrible pay but you really put things in perspective. It’s sad, very sad.
It is. As a minor league fan, I’d encourage you to pick up Lucas Mann’s book “Class A Baseball In The Middle of Anywhere.” It’s an eye-opener. Plus, there are a few players who pop up in the book who ended playing in recent years for the Rays, so you’ll recognize them as well.
Heartbreaking, but sadly a part of the world order, especially cruel and heartless right now…. Thank you, I think, for giving us a dose of it as pertains to our beloved sport.
Hope you, Randy, and companions are all well!
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed.” William Faulkner (1897-1962)
Yup … baseball often is a reflection of who we are as a society and nation. And, in this case, it’s not a good look on any of us.
Wow…had to read it several times to realize that yep, snuckered the little guy, again. So lets think the other sports that have minor teams…them, too? Or just a target on minor league players in baseball? Either way, awful.
Minor league baseball is much bigger than the developmental teams of other professional sports, so it has more impact … and team owners have more $$ to gain by pressing for these kinds of weakening of labor protections.
Words escape me. Thanks for filling in the blanks.
As far as coalblack’s stuttering female street urchin in Calcutta goes, I would add “with festering boils”.
I’m sure that little amendment tucked away on page 1,967 was just one of many, many little breaks and benefits that big campaign donors and high-paid lobbyists were able to sneak into the spending bill.
Unfortunately, I think that you are right.
Reblogged this on Ohm Sweet Ohm and commented:
The Baseball Bloggess has some eye-opening news for us concerning the new omnibus spending bill’s minimum wage provisions and minor-league baseball players.
I read about this when the Washington Post broke the story last week. Disturbing to say the least! I could go on for hours about how lobbyist continue to destroy the fabric of our democracy, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll just say thanks for the read.