For the second time this year, Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants are under federal investigation for possible violations of federal wage laws. The Giants agreed to pay 74 employees a total of $544,715 in back wages at the end of August after a Dept. of Labor investigation found that the franchise violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping laws in how it paid clubhouse and front office workers.
This time, it appears the investigation stems from the “improper use of unpaid interns,” according to Myron Levin and Stuart Silverstein of FairWarning.org. The Labor Department is also investigating the Miami Marlins for potential wage violations.
The Giants did not comment to FairWarning. In June of this year, the Giants reached a $500,000 settlement with security guards in a private suit that alleged the team owed them back pay and had kept them working through legally-required breaks.
The Giants franchise is worth $786 million, according to Forbes, making it the seventh most valuable franchise in baseball. The Giants made roughly $18 million in profits last year.
Concession workers at San Francisco’s AT&T Park also voted to authorize a strike this summer as they attempted to negotiate a new contract with CenterPlate, a concessions contractor. Those workers alleged that they had not received a raise in more than three years. Though it occurred at their ballpark, the Giants were not involved with that dispute, since they contract all concession services to CenterPlate. Workers, however, felt the Giants could have been instrumental in helping them get raises and better health benefits from the company.
Claims of wage theft violations in the United States have increased by 400 percent since 2000, and according to one 2009 report, more than two-thirds of low-income workers experience wage theft at some point in their careers.
As the number of unpaid internships has ballooned, meanwhile, students and activists across the country are fighting to make all internships paid, and companies are fighting back. After two interns sued publishing company Condé Nast this summer, the company responded by ending its program altogether. A July court ruling in New York could ultimately bring an end to unpaid internship programs altogether.
Major League Baseball itself is becoming more aware of the problem. A September 12 memo, obtained by FairWarning, from the commissioner’s office to MLB’s 30 organizations described improper pay practices as “endemic to our industry.” Representatives from all 30 organizations are supposed to meet with Dept. of Labor officials to discuss the broader issues in November.