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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Minor League Baseball players agree to first-ever collective bargaining agreement

Minor Leaguers receive pay increases and other benefits as a result of recent agreement with the MLB

 

By PATRICK FIGUEROA — sports@theaggie.org

 

On March 29, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and Major League Baseball (MLB) owners came to an agreement on the first-ever Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for minor-league players. The agreement will last five years and includes various benefits for players, including pay increases at all levels of Minor League Baseball (MiLB). After decades of mistreatment and exploitation, this agreement marks a new era of MiLB. 

For decades, minor-league players say they have dealt with below-minimum-wage pay and overtime violations. In fact, minor-league players recently won a $185 million federal-class action lawsuit after MLB violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

Several stories from former minor leaguers have also exposed the unglamorous realities of being a MiLB player. 

In a Bleacher Report article from 2014, Dirk Hayhurst discussed his time in the minor leagues, detailing a time when, as a low-A minor-league player, he lived without a refrigerator and microwave because he could not afford the appliances. He claims that he ‘lived off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.’

Fox Sports MLB Analyst Ben Verlander also shared a similar experience in the minor leagues, saying the MiLB did little to ensure that players received proper nutrition. 

“Professional athletes need to fuel their bodies properly in order to compete at the highest level, and unfortunately, minor leaguers don’t have the money to make that happen on their own,” Verlander told Fox Sports

He also said that when players were provided with food, he felt it was not even enough to satisfy a middle schooler. He claimed that if players complained, they would be met with the same response: “If you don’t like it, play better.” 

Hayhurst and Verlander both pointed to one of players’ biggest issues in the MiLB: the living conditions. In the lower levels of MiLB, players live with a host family, but in the upper levels, players are on their own. This often means sharing a living space with other players; Verlander said that five or six players would sometimes live in a house meant for four people. 

Some players have also claimed that the minor leagues have not been as geared toward player development as they should be. However, with a new CBA, the conditions should be much improved.

One of the biggest issues that the new CBA addresses is minor-league pay. At all levels, players will receive significant salary increases: Triple-A players will receive a $17,500 to $35,800 increase, Double-A, a $13,800 to $30,250 increase, High A, an $11,000 to $27,300 increase, Low A, an $11,000 to $26,200 increase and Rookie, a $4,800 to $19,800 increase.

Players will also receive year-round payments, as opposed to the previous payment schedule, which did not include the off-season and forced many players to work second jobs

The new CBA will also address players’ housing. At higher levels of the MiLB, specifically Double and Triple A, players will now receive their own bedrooms. Lower-level players will have the choice of sharing a bedroom or receiving a housing stipend. This builds upon a previous agreement made in 2021 in which MLB required teams to provide all minor-league players with housing.

In regard to food and nutrition, players are now guaranteed both a pre- and post-game meal. Teams will also be required to provide cost-effective and nutritious snacks. To address future complaints, a joint clubhouse nutrition committee will be created.

Other noteworthy parts of the agreement include a requirement that players’ spouses and children receive access to MiLB housing; a new joint drug agreement and domestic violence policy; name, image and likeness (NIL) rights; guaranteed transportation to and from stadiums; access to language classes and new health benefits starting in 2024.

This CBA is not only a victory for minor-league players, but it also creates a recognized union that can continue to improve the conditions of MiLB.

In the words of MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark, “The agreement represents a giant step forward in treating minor-league players as the elite professional athletes that they are. It’s a historic day for these players, their families and the entire player fraternity.”  

 

Written by: Patrick Figueroa — sports@theaggie.org