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Buoyed by Some Lawmakers, Minor League Players Vote to Unionize

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Buoyed by Some Lawmakers, Minor League Players Vote to Unionize
Adrian Placencia (16) of the Inland Empire 66ers reaches for a wide throw against the Lake Elsinore Storm at San Manuel Stadium on August 28, 2022 in San Bernardino, California.
Adrian Placencia of the Inland Empire 66ers reaches for a wide throw against the Lake Elsinore Storm in San Bernardino, Calif. Minor league baseball players voted to create their own bargaining unit within the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Larry Goren Four Seam Images via The Associated Press

Amid nascent efforts from state lawmakers to help minor league baseball players earn better wages, a majority of players have voted in favor of joining the union representing their major league counterparts.

The Major League Baseball Players Association, known as MLBPA, announced Tuesday that a “significant majority” of minor league players voted to create their own bargaining unit within the union, requesting formal recognition from MLB.

“Minor league Players have made it unmistakably clear they want the MLBPA to represent them and are ready to begin collective bargaining to positively affect the upcoming season,” Tony Clark, the union’s executive director, said in a statement

The move comes after several years of growing awareness about the paltry wages and poor living conditions many minor leaguers face. 

Most minor league players earn less than $15,000 a year, paid only during the five months when they’re playing games. Earlier this summer, MLB agreed to a $185 million settlement with minor league players who sued the league for minimum-wage and overtime violations. The settlement also included a memo stating that teams may pay minor leaguers during spring training.

Earlier this year, California state Sen. Josh Becker, a Democrat, introduced a bill that would allow players to reach free agency after four years instead of seven while granting them endorsement rights.

“This would be a big win for minor leaguers,” Becker tweeted about the union drive earlier this month. “It’s the right thing for players and the game.”

J.D. Scholten, a Democratic Iowa House candidate and former minor league pitcher, also tweeted his support. In New York, state Sen. Jessica Ramos, a Democrat, has also used her platform to support minor leaguers. She urged the league to voluntarily recognize the union. 

“Do the right thing @MLB,” Ramos tweeted.

Earlier this year, Ramos helped broker a meeting between the leadership of the New York Mets and the nonprofit group Advocates for Minor Leaguers, The Athletic reported. That group’s staffers have subsequently been absorbed by the MLBPA.  

“I'm happy that we are working to unionize them, help them out,” Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, a member of the MLBPA’s executive board, told ESPN. “They are the future and that is the beginning of every baseball player and they are the future of every major league team. We are hoping to protect them."

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