The minor leaguers’ antitrust lawsuit was dismissed

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In early 2014 several minor leaguers filed a putative class action antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball alleging that minor leaguers are underpaid and exploited and that the Uniform Player Contract unfairly takes advantage of them.

The upshot: excluding bonuses which only a few minor leaguers get in any real size, Major League Baseball often pays minor leaguers less than $7,500 for an entire season and requires mandatory overtime in violation of state and federal wage laws. The Uniform Player Contract they are required to sign binds them to a team and keeps them from shopping their services elsewhere. Though they are only paid during the season, they are required to perform duties such as training, meetings and the like all year long and their duties and obligations to the club extend on a year-round basis too.

There was a lot of superficial appeal to the suit — to fight it on the merits, baseball was prepared to argue that minor leaguers are more like seasonal workers who are not entitled to labor law protection — but the merits of the thing will not be heard, it seems. The case was dismissed. The reason? Baseball’s antitrust exemption. From the judge’s decision:

“Plaintiffs have a persuasive policy argument that the Defendants should not be afforded carte blanche to restrict the pay and mobility of minor league players without answering to the federal antitrust laws that apply to the employment of major league baseball players and, for that matter, all other professional sports leagues. But that policy argument must be made to Congress or the Supreme Court.”

Which was always going to be the highest burden here.

Baseball, of course, should not have an antitrust exemption. There’s no good reason for it and it’s original imposition was based on both a factual and legal fiction of baseball teams being little self-contained storefronts, operating independently from one another in far flung, isolated towns. In reality it’s a nearly $10 billion business using the federally-regulated airwaves to realize most of their income and using almost exclusively government-funded facilities to generate the rest.

But heaven forbid its workers get any protection of the federal laws. That, my friends, would be socialism!

Meanwhile, minor leaguers will spend the winter either asking people if they want fries with that in order to make ends meet or working for no pay at all to benefit the organizations which prohibit them from working for a competitor for several years.

UPDATE: Note, this case, the Miranda case, was not the case in which players sued for violations of the minimum wage laws. That case was the Senne v. MLB case, and it’s still active.

Tony Clark: Universal DH ‘gaining momentum’ among players

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Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark met the press late this morning and covered a wide array of topics.

One of them: free agency, which he referred to as being “under attack” based on the slow market for free agents last offseason.

“What the players saw last offseason was that their free-agent rights were under attack on what has been the bedrock of our system,” Clark said. He added that they “have some very difficult decisions to make.” Presumably in the form of grievances and, down the road, a negotiating strategy that seeks to claw back some of the many concessions the union has given owners in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. CBAs, it’s worth noting, that Clark negotiated. We’ve covered that territory in detail in the past.

Of more immediate interest was Clark’s comment that the idea of a universal designated hitter is, among players, “gaining momentum.” Clark says “players are talking about it more than they have in the past.” We’ve talked a lot about that as well.

Given that hating or loving the DH is the closest thing baseball has to a religion, no one’s mind is going to be changed by any of this, but I think, practically speaking, it’s inevitable that the National League will have the DH and I think it happens relatively soon. Perhaps in the next five years. The opposition to it at this point is solely subjective and based on tradition. People like pitchers batting and they like double switches and they like the leagues being different because they, well, like it. If the system were being set up today, however, they’d never have it this way and I think even the DH-haters know that well. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dislike a universal DH, but it does mean that you can’t expect the people who run the game to cater to that preference when it makes little sense for them to do it for their own purposes.

Anyway: enjoy convincing each other in the comments about how the side of that argument you dislike is wrong.