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MLB To Pay $185 million “Starvation Deal”

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Major League Baseball agrees on $185 million as part of a “starvation wage deal” with minor league ballplayers.

San Francisco, CAMinor league ballplayers asked a California federal judge last month to approve a $185 million settlement they reached with Major League Baseball over alleged "starvation" wages in a case that languished through the courts for eight years. The California labor minimum wage and overtime lawsuit was settled a month before it was slated for trial.

The class action lawsuit was filed back in 2014 by former minor leaguer Aaron Senne and two other retired minor league players. They claimed that MLB teams violated federal and state minimum-wage and overtime laws. The league attempted to dismiss the charges in late 2020 but the U.S. Supreme Court denied them. According to ABC News, the league avoided even greater potential damages through the settlement.

Congress passed a bill in March 2018 that exempted minor league players from federal minimum-wage and overtime laws, and some minor league players still receive salaries below the poverty line. The majority of the more than 5,000 players in the minor leagues make between $4,800 and $14,700 annually. In the past, minor league players were paid only during their season.

The Settlement

This settlement is seen as the first significant step in an ongoing effort by minor league players to improve their standards of living. One estimate is that 23,000 players could share the money with an average payment of $5,000 to $5,500, according the players’ damages expert. As part of the settlement, MLB will issue a memo that allows teams to pay minor league players during spring training, and extended spring training and instructional leagues in Florida and Arizona. Teams previously had been blocked from doing so.

Another step in the right direction is a new policy implemented by the MLB that mandates teams to cover lodging for players at home after they previously were responsible for it. And Senate Judiciary Committee leadership has inquired with Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a nonprofit group founded in 2020 by former players who are pushing for changes, about how MLB's antitrust exemption applies to minor league players. They said the settlement is an "important first step toward remedying" the conspiracy to underpay Minor League baseball players. "We will not be satisfied until Minor Leaguers have a seat at the table to negotiate fair wages and working conditions, as is the norm across professional sports," the group said.

"We are only in the second year of a major overhaul of the 100-year-old player development system and have made great strides to improve the quality of life for minor league players," an MLB spokesperson said in a statement, and reported by ABC News. "We are proud that minor league players already receive significant benefits, including free housing, quality health care, multiple meals per day, college tuition assistance for those who wish to continue their education and over $450 million in annual signing bonuses for first-year players. We are pleased we were able to come to a mutually agreeable resolution but are unable to comment on the details until the agreement is formally approved by the Court."

Pursuing a Dream

"This settlement is a monumental step for minor league players toward a fair and just compensation system," said plaintiffs’ attorney Garrett Broshuis. "As a former minor league baseball player, I've seen first-hand the financial struggle players face while earning poverty-level wages -- or no wages at all -- in pursuit of their major league dream. For the better part of a decade, it has been my honor to help lead this fight and to shine a light on the unfair labor practices that have long plagued America's pastime."


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