A new group thinks minor league baseball players ought to earn a salary above the poverty line.
What the “Advocates for Minor Leaguers” nonprofit appreciates is that getting Major League Baseball to buy into that bottom line will be a snap.
“The first initiative is an immediate demand to more than double the minimum salary to $15,000 a year — that’s the level that would place these guys just above the poverty line and it’s also the amount that’s right around what a full-time minimum wage-earner makes,” said Garrett Broshuis, co-founder of AML, and also a St. Louis-based lawyer and former Giants pitching prospect. “So surely, MLB as an $10.7 billion industry can afford to pay these guys what a full-time minimum wage-earner would make. To do that would cost each MLB team far less than $2 million a year — that’s less than half what one average major league player costs.”
Broshuis and a group of former and current minor leaguers founded the group (for more information, visit advocatesforminorleaguers.com) in large part because unlike their major league brethren, the thousands of minor leaguers among the 30 MLB franchises do not have a union or any formal structure to advocate for their rights.
The federal individual poverty line is $12,760. For full-time workers making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the annual incomes works out to $15,080.
Minor leaguers do not get paid for regular or extended spring training.
During a usual five-month season starting in April, a rookie and Single-A player makes $3,480 a season, $7,000 for Double-A players and $10,040 at Triple-A.
And while more and more stories are emerging about the plight of minor leaguers during the sport shutdown during the COVID-10 outbreak, the minor leaguers have dispersed without any say about their short- and long-term financial outlook.
Major League Baseball did announce on Thursday that all 30 clubs would provide daily allowances through April 8, when spring training was supposed to end.
As to what will happen to the sub-minimum wage paychecks minor leaguers were supposed to see when the season was set to begin on April 9 remains very much in the air.
Fittingly, MLB will not turn its decision to the fate of the minor leaguers’ salaries until they hammer out details of what will happen to the major leaguers, who are represented by the powerful Major League Baseball Players Association.
The prospect of minor-league players organizing and forming a union at this particular moment is virtually zero.
Part of that is a collective mindset forged on an entrenched and fear-based mindset that may change in the future but not quickly enough.
““There’s very much the sentiment that ‘if you don’t like it, play better’ — it’s the overarching theme of minor league baseball, and it’s really unfortunate” said Ty Kelly, a recently retired major leaguer who was in the minor leagues last season and the 10 seasons before then.
“It’s unfortunate (MLB doesn’t) view their players as investments. That’s all we can really ask for — to just treat them like they are the future members of your major league team that they most definitely can be, especially if you put in the time and energy to create an atmosphere where they can thrive and they can succeed and then they can be called up at some point and help your major league team make more money for you so you can continue going back and paying players in the minor leagues to help your major league team out in the future. It obviously only makes sense that you would treat all of your employees fairly, first of all, but then to treat them as investments — it just makes sense.”
The group is looking to advocate for better overall working conditions for minor leaguers, which in large part will require raising awareness in the public. It hopes major leaguers will get behind the group, too.
Another co-founder, former Mets’ minor league pitcher Raul Jacobson, still can’t shake the memories of the struggles his Latino teammates faced, who would pool their $45 weekly food stipend to “walk to WalMart and buy giant packages of frozen chicken and cook it on the electric stove in your hotel room — you’ll walk by the hotel and see four guys in a room who are eating out of one pot, and it’s mind-blowing to me that if you don’t want to eat the team-provided food you have to go meet up with three four other guys to make that happen,” said Jacobson. “They can’t just walk into McDonald’s and pay 10 bucks a meal. The only reason I could do it and I didn’t sign for any money but I had parents who were willing to help support me and go after my dream. That’s just not the reality for probably half the minor leaguers if not more.”