Though it’s an issue that has been on the back burner for a few months, earlier this year, the topic of minor league salaries was a huge issue. Near the end of June, Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL) proposed H.R. 5580, or the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” in the House of Representatives. The bill sought to amend language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which would allow Major League Baseball to continue paying minor league players a substandard wage.
There has been a class action lawsuit filed in October last year, alleging that minor league players have been underpaid and exploited. These players are often paid less than $7,500 per year, even though they’re putting in eight-plus hour days six, sometimes seven days a week plus travel. Minor leaguers aren’t represented by a union, unlike major leaguers, which is why they continue to be exploited.
When asked for comment, commissioner Rob Manfred said that minor league baseball is “not a career but a short-term seasonal apprenticeship.”
To be fair, we shouldn’t have expected anything else out of Manfred. His job is to get the most out of his labor force for as little as possible. But it’s immoral and we should ask more of business leaders running billion dollar businesses.
Manfred was asked again about the minor league pay issue by Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star, but all he did was deflect again.
Kennedy asked, “Can you explain why you’re opposed to paying minor league players minimum wage?”
Manfred responded, “We’re not opposed to paying minor league players any particular wage. What we are opposed to is the imposition of administrative requirements in terms of keeping track of hours and overtime. They’re simply impractical in minor league baseball. A young man decides that he wants to take extra batting practice. Is that overtime or is that his voluntary undertaking? Another young player decides he wants to go to the gym. Are those working hours or are they not? … What do you do with a team that’s on the road for 10 days in terms of keeping track of hours? For us it’s really not about the money so much as the burden that would be imposed. I don’t think that when the wage and hours laws were passed that people were thinking about minor league baseball players.”
Kennedy then asked, “Would you then consider raising the uniform player salaries to make them more commensurate to minimum wage?”
Manfred said, “I’m not going to talk about what we would consider doing. We still have active litigation out there. There’s conversations ongoing. In terms of getting into revenues, it’s just not productive for me to do at this time.”
So, in short, Manfred doesn’t want to raise minor league salaries because… it’s too confusing keeping track of hours. In actuality, it’s not that difficult. He’s the commissioner. He and the players’ union can negotiate what activities fall under what criteria. Go to the gym at a league-approved facility? Overtime. Non-league-approved? No overtime. It’s not really that difficult in the year 2016. The “too much administrative work” is just a cop out so Major League Baseball can continue underpaying its workforce.