When you think of overpaid athletes rolling in the dough at the expense of others, baseball players in the minor leagues are not usually the first people that come to mind.
That is, unless you happen to be U.S. Representatives Brett Guthrie (R-KY). Last week, he introduced a bill misleadingly called the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” with the sole purpose of keeping Minor League Baseball (MiLB) players from federal minimum wage and overtime requirements.
Initially, this was presented as a bipartisan bill along with Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL). However, on Thursday she announced that due to the backlash, she was withdrawing her support after “several concerns about the bill have been brought to my attention.”
According to a release on Guthrie’s website, Major League Baseball (MLB) should be given credit for offering a “paid path to the Major Leagues,” rather than relying primarily on the NCAA to serve as a developmental league.
“If the law is not clarified, the costs to support local teams would likely increase dramatically and usher in significant cuts across the league, threatening the primary pathway to the Majors and putting teams at risk,” the statement warns. “The impact on teams could also have a significant, negative economic impact on businesses and workers that rely on Minor League baseball.”
This reasoning is alarmist at best. After all, minor league baseball players barely make enough money to get by as it is. According to Deadspin, “Since 1976, MLB salaries have risen 2,500 percent while minor league salaries have only gone up 70 percent. Players in low-A ball start at $1,100 a month, while AAA players earn $2,150 per month.”
You’re talking about a group of guys whose salaries start at $1,100 per month.
While baseball games only last a few hours, between travel and training, practices, and promotional appearances in the community, most players in the minor leagues are working far more than 40 hours a week. Minor league players work five months a year chasing after their major-league dreams, and yet very few of them earn enough to cross the federal poverty line. Apparently, though, they’re the ones who are threatening the future of baseball as we know it.
The “Save America’s Pastime Act” insists that ticket sales and local community sponsors pay the salaries of the players in the minors. In fact, it’s actually billionaire MLB owners that are financing these salaries, as a way to develop future talent for their lucrative big-league teams.
“It’s despicable. You have billionaire major league owners working with millionaire minor league owners to add to their pockets more, and at the same time you have minor leaguers who are making below the poverty wage,” Garrett Broshuis told Sporting News. “You’re talking about a group of guys whose salaries start at $1,100 per month, and they’re only paid during the season. They’re not paid during spring training. They’re not paid during instructional leagues.”
Broshuis is an attorney currently involved in the 2014 lawsuit that inspired this bill, Senne, et al. v. MLB, et al., which alleges that the pay in the minor leagues violates fair wage and overtime laws in California. Currently, 2,300 current and former players have opted in.
Despite the glaringly apparent problems with the bill, Bustos said last week that this was a “common sense proposal will close a loophole to ensure the long-term viability of Minor League teams in communities across our nation.”
However, she completely changed her tone on Thursday.
“Whether it’s on the factory floor, in classrooms or on the playing fields of one of America’s revered traditions, I strongly support raising the minimum wage and the right to collective bargaining for fair wages,” she said. “I believe that Major League Baseball can and should pay young, passionate minor league players a fair wage for the work they do.”