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Supreme Court Denies MLB Request To Dismiss Pay Increase Lawsuit With Minor Leagues

On Monday the Supreme Court denied Major League Baseball’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of minor league players who are seeking compensation for past hours already worked. The case of Senne versus the Royals was originally filed back in 2014 on behalf of former minor league player Aaron Senne, who aimed to bring in thousands of past and present players to receive compensation for spring training that they were denied or paid salaries that were below the poverty line. 

Garrett Broshuis is the attorney and former minor league player who filed the initial lawsuit, and recently claimed that there’s “no reason for players to be making $7,500 or $8,000 for the year.” 

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“The ultimate goal is pretty simple: to get MLB to comply with the same laws that Walmart and McDonald’s comply with. Whenever they ask players to go to spring training, they should be paying their employees for it.”

This is a longstanding issue within minor league baseball. Players are often paid below minimum wage for their given numbers of hours worked. If the minor league season wasn’t cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, players who were considered to be Triple-A players were projected to be paid  $700 per week played, Double-A players $600, Class A players $500 and Rookie League and short-season players $400. Lower-level players in 2019 earned about $290 a week and even with some players receiving raises, some were paid less than $5,000 for a full season; a staggering amount when compared to their major league counterparts. 

In August 2019, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allowed the lawsuit to proceed as a class action suit which would allow former players to seek back pay that they are owed from previous seasons, and current players to receive compensation for the hours worked before the seasons cancellation. 

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The main issue lies in the minimum wage payments for these players. Back in 2018 lawmakers included the Save America’s Pastime Act in a $1.3 trillion spending bill. By including the Pastime Act in this bill, minor league players were directly stripped of their minimum wage protections, meaning their management could legally get away with paying them as little as they wanted. According to Broshuis, players typically are working 60 hours a week during an active season, and the law passing meant players could only be paid minimum wage for 40 hours a week.

“The law called for them to be paid minimum wage for 40 hours a week irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball-related activities. The Save America’s Pastime Act was a horrible act, it was a misnomer. There was never a need for it.”

The Ninth Circuit ruling allowed players located in California, Arizona, and Florida to join the class lawsuit. These states are the homes of dozens of minor league teams and spring training facilities. No players, including major league, are paid for their spring training, however, MLB players are able to negotiate a salary through the MLB Players Association, the minor league teams don’t have any sort of union in place to help them negotiate potential payments. 

The Professional Baseball Agreement between MLB and Minor League Baseball expired at the end of September this year, meaning the MLB will now likely take control over the minor leagues. This will potentially lead to a merger of unions as well and could give the minor league players the chance at renegotiating their working arrangements for future seasons.