While major league ballplayers can make millions per year – the entry-level wage for a pro baseball player signed to the roster of one of the big teams in Major League Baseball (MLB) is above a half-million dollars per year – minor league players make a fraction of that, and are not represented by a union. When the California unpaid wages lawsuit was first launched in February, 2014 in San Francisco some plaintiffs were paid as little as $1,100 per month for a work week exceeding 50 hours, with little-to-no provision for rest breaks and meal periods – let alone a fair hourly wage and overtime pay.
Factoring in the number of hours worked together with the lack of overtime pay, plaintiffs allege they were paid below minimum wage and thus, employers were in violation of FLSA statutes.
California wage and hour lawsuit claimed minor league players earned less than minimum wage
Minor league baseball serves as a necessary feeder system for ‘The Show,’ as the major league circuit is commonly known. With successful MLB baseball players commanding small fortunes in terms of salary and signing bonuses, the substantial cost to MLB and their respective teams appears to provide motivation to keep salaries of non-unionized minor league players low. Boston.com (03/23/18) reports those playing rookie ball as well as Class-A players can make as little as $1,100 per month, while Double-A players make about $1,500 per month and players at the Triple-A level were taking home $2,150 per month.
The lower-paid plaintiffs making as little as $5,500 for an entire regular season (not including spring training or post-season ball) were the driving force behind the class action California unpaid wages lawsuit seeking fair wages. However, Boston.com reports in the Associated Press story that there was quiet, but intense lobbying on Capitol Hill to have the SAPA statute included in the omnibus government spending bill that was signed into law by the President on Friday, March 23. The Save America’s Pastime Act exempts “any employee employed to play baseball who is compensated pursuant to a contract that provides for a weekly salary for services performed during the league’s championship season (but not spring training or the offseason) at a rate that is not less than a weekly salary equal to the minimum wage…for a workweek of 40 hours, irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities.”
Federal legislation passed Friday strips minor league players from FLSA protections
Experts suggest that SAPA takes the teeth out of the class action California unpaid wages lawsuit, which certified participating minor league players toiling in a California league, instructional league or extended spring training since February 2011. MLB has a request before the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the class certification. That intervention from MLB has delayed the case from going to trial.
READ MORE CALIFORNIA UNPAID WAGES LEGAL NEWS
It is unknown what happens now. The lawsuit is Senne et al. v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball et al., Case No. 3:14-cv-00608, in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.