For the past several years we and others have chronicled the sorry state of pay for minor leaguers. Woefully underpaid for years — making less than minimum wage, getting no overtime despite working long hours and being forced into all manner of unpaid training — lawsuits were filed against Major League Baseball for violating federal labor laws.
MLB’s response: lobby Congress for special treatment allowing them, by law, to continue to mistreat their employees. That lobbying paid off last year via the passage of the so-called “Save America’s Pastime Act” which classified ballplayers as “seasonal workers” like landscapers or lifeguards, thereby exempting them from the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Just yesterday Emily Waldon of The Athletic shared a story about just how much of a hardship this state of affairs has visited upon minor leaguers, many of whom have to give up baseball as a result of the dreadful pay.
While fans and commentators who are aware of these practices have howled, there has been no suggestion that Major League Baseball gives a crap. As of today, however, we have learned that at least one team does: The Athletic reports that the Toronto Blue Jays “are in the process of finalizing a pay increase of more than 50 percent for any player who is on a roster of an affiliated minor-league club, from the lowest rung in the Dominican Summer League to the highest level at Triple A, club.”
At the moment, Single-A players make around $1,100 a month, Triple-A players around $2,100-$2,500 a month and are not paid for the offseason, when they have to train and often must attend team events, or for spring training where, obviously, attendance is mandatory. A 50% raise over that still pays many of these players less than minimum wage on an hourly basis over the course of a year, but bumps some over and, in any event, is certainly a substantial increase. Is it good enough? Not really. But it’s a start and a welcome change of approach by at least one club.
Mark Shapiro of the Blue Jays says in the article that he hopes other teams follow suit and I share that hope. Still, it’s a sad comment that paying minor leaguers something even approaching a living wage is a matter of choice — and something for which the Blue Jays will be lauded — as a opposed to a basic requirement that the Jays and other teams should be obligated to meet.