More players are speaking out against the Arizona immigration law


Arizona outline.jpgOver the weekend Drew noted that Adrian Gonzalez said that he would not attend next year’s All-Star Game if selected due to the Arizona’s S.B. 1070 immigration law.  Gonzalez is not the only player speaking out.

The Padres’ Yorvit
Torrealba told the San Diego Union-Tribune
“Why do I want to go play in a place where
every time I go to a restaurant and they don’t understand what I’m
trying to order, they’re going to ask me for ID first? That’s bull. I
come from a crazy country. Now Arizona seems a little bit more crazy.”

Mets catcher Rod Barajas told The New York Times, “If
they happen to pull someone over who looks like they are of Latin
descent, even if they are a U.S. citizen, that is the first question
that is going to be asked. But if a blond-haired, blue-eyed Canadian
gets pulled over, do you think they are going to ask for their papers?

You can expect more players to weigh in on this.  If nothing changes (i.e. if the Major League Baseball remains silent) the logical conclusion of all of this is (a) a wildcat strike of the All-Star Game by Latino players and those who sympathize with their position; and (b) a presumed backlash by other players who either support the law or who don’t feel it appropriate for baseball to wade into the political arena like this. In other words: ugliness.

As I said the other day, the only way to head this off is for Bud Selig to show some leadership on the matter.  He need not come out in sharp opposition to S.B. 1070, and he need not make any decisions regarding the fate of the 2011 All-Star Game at this time, but it seems essential to me that he publicly acknowledge the feelings of the ballplayers, acknowledge the controversy and offer something approaching an official position for baseball.

If he does that — even with one of his patented “we’ll wait and see how it all plays out” statements which, in this case, may be the best bet — at least the players and the public will know that baseball is paying attention and may dial down the rhetoric for a bit.  If he doesn’t, a good many of those same people are going to think that Bud doesn’t care, and it’s going to draw baseball further into the firestorm than it already is.

Yeah, that’s a political calculation, not a business one, but in this case the business of baseball and politics are on a collision course, so that stuff matters.

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. 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 those kinds of things. 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.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.