Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Minor League Baseball Players Do Not Have to Be Paid Minimum Wage

In light of the massive contracts that have recently been awarded to major league baseball players, it might come as a surprise to learn that minor league baseball players make barely enough money to survive. The average salary for a minor league baseball player is a mere $1,100 a month, paid only during the minor league season, which runs from April to August. In light of this, there have been a series of lawsuits by minor league players claiming that they are entitled to minimum wage pay pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires employers to pay employees a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour worked (states have the option of increasing the minimum wage), along with time and a half for all hours worked over 40 in a week.

In recent years, Major League Baseball (MLB) has been lobbying Congress to make minor league baseball players exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. And last month it succeeded by including the Save America’s Pastime Act in the omnibus spending bill that was signed into law by President Trump. The Act modifies the Fair Labor Standards Act to make minor league baseball players exempt from being paid minimum wage for each hour that they devote to baseball-related activities They also are not eligible to receive increased pay for working more than 40 hours per week.

The Act does, however, require minor league players to be paid at least what they would have made had they made minimum wage for 40 hours or work each week. That comes out to about $1,160 per month. Minor League Baseball representatives take little solace in this concession, as minor league players spend well over 40 hours a week on baseball-related activities. Adding further insult to injury is the fact that the MLB has reportedly spent more than $1 million in each of the last two years lobbying Congress.

Major League Baseball (MLB) has justified its lobbying efforts by arguing that it would be impossible to calculate the number of hours that a minor league baseball player devotes to baseball-related activities. If a player spends three hours taking batting practice on his own, should he be paid for this? How would the player prove how much time he spent on baseball-related activities?
“...I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours; you can’t have any extra batting practice.’...It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”-Pat O’Conner, President of Minor League Baseball
The Save America’s Pastime Act will only affect the wages of minor league players going forward, so it does not bar the lawsuits that have already been filed for the failure to pay minimum wage. Stay tuned to this blog for updates on those lawsuits, along with other labor disputes between baseball and its players.