South San Francisco, CA March 16, 2022 Submitted by Leslie Guevarra, Office of Senator Josh Becker
Senator Josh Becker announced legislation today to establish the Minor League Baseball Players’ Bill of Rights, which would modernize decades’ old and scathingly criticized work conditions for Minor Leaguers.
“Baseball is called America’s pastime and Minor Leaguers are just asking for what every American worker wants,” said Senator Becker, D-Peninsula. “These players are asking for fair treatment and the opportunity to make a decent living under decent conditions.
“I introduced Senate Bill 1248 to create the Minor League Baseball Players’ Bill of Rights and to clear the way for better wages, better treatment and fair contracts for these athletes. It’s only fitting that the legislative movement for Minor Leaguers’ rights begins in California. The national movement that established NCAA players’ rights to control their names, likenesses and images began here thanks to the groundbreaking 2019 bill by my colleagues Senator Nancy Skinner and Senator Steven Bradford. I’m grateful to Advocates for Minor Leaguers for their partnership on SB 1248.”
Advocates for Minor Leaguers Executive Director Harry Marino said, “The legislation introduced today demonstrates that folks across the United States are paying attention to, and troubled by, the mistreatment of Minor League baseball players. For decades, MLB’s billionaire owners have conspired to exploit Minor League players, forcing each player to sign the same unconscionable uniform player contract. We applaud Senator Becker for championing this common-sense reform of America’s pastime.”
Life in the Minor Leagues
The work conditions for minor league baseball players on teams affiliated with Major League Baseball have been criticized for years. Practices described as cruel, exploitive, and brutal in news articles, first-person accounts and lawsuits include:
- Pittance wages that place most players below the federal poverty level.
- Players are paid only during championship-playing season, which amounts to less than six months of the year and does not include spring training or required participation in other activities outside regular season.
- Wage scales are unilaterally set by MLB owners.
- Restrictive contracts. The current uniform player contract has a seven-year reserve clause.
- No player control over use of their name, likeness or image for promotional purposes, and no right for compensation when players’ names, likenesses or images are used by their teams.
- Long work hours plus road travel consisting mainly of lengthy bus rides with over-crowded accommodations and a diet of fast food in an industry that counts excellent health, fitness and nutrition among the essential elements for success.
- A prevailing employer philosophy that players should endure the hardships, a sentiment that bolsters players’ fear of retaliation if they speak out.
Minor Leaguer Joe Hudson and a member of the Advocates for Minor Leaguers Player Steering Committee said, “Over the course of my 10-year career in professional baseball, I’ve lived through the low wages of the seven-year Uniform Player Contract. That experience almost drove me to retirement since I was unable to earn enough to provide for my family. As a Minor League free agent, I’ve been able to make enough money to support my family year-round and live my dream of being a professional baseball player. This bill would allow more Minor Leaguers to be paid a fair wage sooner in their careers, and I strongly support it. It’s good for the players, and good for the long-term health of our game.”
Few Minor Leaguers, however, withstand the initial contract period and make it to free agency, or are called up to a major league team.
“Minor Leaguers should not get exploited for dreaming. We should encourage their hopes and efforts, not disenfranchise them for it,” the brother of a professional baseball player, whose career began on minor league teams, told a Becker staffer doing research for SB 1248.
Minor Leaguers have been exempt from the federal minimum wage and overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2018, when Congress inserted the “Save America’s Pastime Act” into omnibus spending legislation following years of MLB lobbying. There are stark differences between Minor Leaguers’ income and MLB’s revenue. For 2019 season, MLB’s gross revenue neared $11 billion, marking the 17th consecutive year of growth and a 9,000% increase since 1975. In contrast, Minor League players’ income increased 75% over the same period.
Today, Minor League players on a Single-A team are paid $500 a week during the championship-playing season; Double-A team members, $600 a week; and Triple-A team members, $700 a week. Most Minor Leaguers are paid less than $12,000 a year. An annual income of $13,590 for a person living alone is considered poverty level under 2022 federal guidelines.
The Minor League Baseball Players’ Bill of Rights
SB 1248, the Minor League Baseball Players’ Bill of Rights, would clear the way for better MiLB player treatment in several ways. If passed and signed into law, the legislation would apply to any Minor League player contract entered into on or after January 1, 2023, and would:
- Define a minor league player as anyone employed to play baseball for “a minor league team that is affiliated with a major league baseball team and who plays, resides, or is employed in the state” – a provision that would make those players subject to California labor laws, including those applying to compensation.
- Prohibit any initial player contract from lasting longer than four years. The provision enables the players to negotiate an individual contract after four years.
- Guarantee that players retain the rights to their name, image and likeness (NIL) without affecting their eligibility with the MLB or their Minor League team.
- Guarantee that players who exercise their NIL rights are not subject to retaliation.
SB 1248 was a spot bill that was amended in entirety to accommodate the Minor League Baseball Players’ Bill of Rights legislation. The new bill language will soon be posted on the California’s legislative database. Senate committee reviews of SB 1248 are expected to begin this spring.