Johnson is one of the dozens of players who have joined in the lawsuit against Major League Baseball alleging that the extraordinarily low wages paid to minor leaguers is violative of the Fair Labor Standards Act. That case has wound its way through court for a couple of years now and will continue to do so, but in the meantime the lives of minor leaguers who are not on the 40-man roster or who, like Johnson, did not receive large signing bonuses (he got $5,000) continue to be rough ones. Especially if you have a family to support.
As Berg notes, if each and every minor leaguer were given a $30,000 raise — which would take them from sub-minimum wage compensation to a level where one could at least reasonably live — it would cost each organization $7.5 million. While that’s a lot of money, it’s not hard to see examples of clubs practically throwing away that kind of money. More modest raises, which would at least get players off of shared rooms filled with air mattresses during the season and out of multiple part time jobs in the offseason, would obviously cost less.
Ultimately, though, this is less about any specific dollar amount than it is about the overall state of affairs in which ballclubs treat their minor leaguers as if they were seasonal help rather than employees and in which their wages have less actual purchasing power now than they had 40 years ago. That state of affairs is bad when it exists in the economy at large. It’s inexcusable in baseball, which is more flush with money than it ever has been.
Go read Ted’s story about Kyle Johnson. It’s today’s must-read.