Representatives Brett Guthrie and Cheri Bustos introduced legislation last week that would keep minor league baseball players from receiving minimum wage with the Save America's Pastime Act. This bill would keep minor leaguers from being subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act that protects those working hourly-rate jobs.
The justification for the legislation was that Minor League Baseball being subjected to these overtime requirements would cause such an increase in cost that many cities would be forced to give up their minor league teams who simply couldn't afford to pay players overtime. One problem with that argument: Minor League Baseball does not pay their players. The parent club of each affiliate is responsible for players' paychecks. No Major League Baseball team is hurting for money enough that they can't pay their prospects minimum wage.
Introducing this legislation as a way to prevent the loss of "affordable family-friendly entertainment" is simply unfounded. MLB teams, not the affiliates themselves, would need to make sure that the prospects were properly compensated under the FLSA. It's really the least they can do for players who try to make it in the depths of minor league systems while barely being able to make ends meet.
David Dorsey of news-press.com reported that minor leaguers who aren't on their parent club's 40-man roster generally make less than $2,500 per month. In many cases, players make even less than that. They are not paid at all during the offseason. MLB cannot survive without the minor league systems, so forcing the players to live on so little while depending on their labor is reprehensible.
To make matters worse, Major League Baseball released a statement Thursday in full support of the legislation. The worst part of the statement was MLB saying that being a minor league baseball player is more of a short-term seasonal apprenticeship than career. Working and training over 50 hours per week doesn't sound like an apprenticeship to me.
Here is MLB's complete statement:
Pretty depressing statement regarding legislation on minor league wages. Does it sound like MLB is crying poor? pic.twitter.com/I4VZxdKVia— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) June 30, 2016
It isn't a surprise that MLB would turn out their pockets and claim not to have the money to be able to pay prospects a fair wage. Even teams like the Yankees say things that would have you believe they are on the verge of poverty. The joke is that anyone would actually believe it. Baseball absolutely has the money to ensure that their stash of labor in the minors can afford to live on more than just peanuts per day.
Congresswoman Bustos already withdrew her support of the bill in light of the feedback received. It's unclear why it took her so long to realize that the bill she helped introduce would be ensuring that MiLB players continue to receive less than minimum wage for the work they put in, but at least she was able to reach that conclusion eventually. It's time MLB did the same.