Baseball will lobby to have Congress exempt minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act

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We’ve talked about the class action lawsuit by minor leaguers alleging that Major League Baseball has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by paying minor leaguers less than the minimum wage (and to take advantage of minor leaguers in other ways). Now Minor League Baseball’s chief lobbyist — certainly to Major League Baseball’s delight — plans to do an end-run around those laws by asking Congress to classify ballplayers like babysitters and seasonal workers.

Baseball America’s story from the Winter Meetings last week reports on the comments of Stan Brand, Vice President of Minor League Baseball, who announced that next year he will lobby Congress to add minor league baseball players to the list of 35 occupations not required to receive minimum wage or overtime pay under the Federal Labor Standards Act. Here’s Brand:

“In the coming year, we will be seeking legislation to clarify that professional baseball players are not covered by these federal wage and hour laws . . . Just as we did in the 1990s to save the antitrust exemption, we will need your help to explain to our legislators the importance of this issue to the future of minor league baseball and their communities’ investments in stadia and infrastructure.  I do not want to overstate the threat this suit presents, but I think my honest assessment is that it is equally perilous for our future as the antitrust repeal was in the 1990’s.”

Which is total crap given that the minor league operators to whom Brand was speaking do not pay the salaries of minor league baseball players. MLB teams do that. Minor league teams operate the ballparks and concessions and pay for charter flights and things, but they do not pay player salaries.

Of course, as the article notes, Brand and his friends worry that if Major League Baseball clubs have to pay minor leaguers a living wage, they’ll pass on their higher costs to minor league baseball somehow. Which is in no way the problem of or the fault of minor league players who are making $5K a year for what is, in reality, a full-time job. If minor league teams made crap deals with Major League Baseball, change the deals, don’t lobby to keep the workers who get the people to buy tickets to your games in poverty.

But then again, given Brand’s loving words for the antitrust exemption, the basic mechanics of business are foreign to him. How DARE baseball executives have to compete in the marketplace and abide by the same rules every business from multinational tech companies on down to corner muffler shops have to abide by? How DARE they have to pay human beings a salary that actual complies with the law and basic human decency? The NERVE.

At the Winter Meetings I stayed at the same hotel all the minor league executives stayed at. It was a bit down the road from where the major leaguers stayed. The bar was still hopping, though. These guys were buying themselves and their buddies overpriced drinks to beat the bad. I would not be shocked if many of their tabs for the week exceeded the annual salary their parent clubs pay some of their players. But yes, let’s have Congress step in and protect these guys from the insane demands of the 20-year-old kids who live on baloney sandwiches all year and spend the winter sleeping on air mattresses in their grandmothers’ sewing rooms because they can’t afford an apartment.