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.