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.
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.