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ESSN SUPPORTS OUR MINOR LEAGUERS

For decades, Minor League baseball players have been exploited by the Major League teams that employ them. This year, most Minor Leaguers will make an annual salary of less than $15,000. Advocates for Minor Leaguers is a nonprofit organization formed in 2020 to provide a collective voice for Minor Leaguers and advocate for improved working conditions. In its first year of full operation, AfML has scored significant victories for Minor League baseball players with certain MLB teams, including securing back pay for previously unpaid training periods, obtaining housing stipends for players who struggle to afford shelter, and ensuring that teams are properly feeding their players during games and on road trips. AfML has done this by tapping into long-simmering energy among players, the media, and fans, all of whom recognize the players’ exploitation at the hands of their Major League clubs and are ready for change.

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From the Organizers
THE ADVOCATES FOR MINOR LEAGUERS  

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

 

Minor League baseball players are chronically and fundamentally mistreated and underpaid. They are entitled to adequate compensation for their labor year round, as well as adequate meals and housing during the season. ESSN supports the mission of AfML is to provide a collective voice for players as they fight for those basic, simple needs. Thanks to player, fan, and media pressure this year, AfML has achieved some victories, but there is much work yet to be done.
 

THE PROBLEM:
 

PAY:
 

  • Minor league pay is low: most minor leaguers make less than $15,000 for a whole year. Some make even less than that.
     

  • Minor league pay is seasonal: though the UPC mandates that players perform contractually mandated duties year round, teams are only required to pay salary during the “championship-playing season.”
     

  • Meanwhile, major league baseball is an incredibly lucrative industry--the average franchise is valued at $1.9 billion.
     

  • Thanks to baseball’s antitrust exemption granted to them by the Supreme Court 100 years ago, teams are able to collude and pay minor leaguers an artificially low salary.
     

HOUSING:

 

  • Many players are effectively paying to play baseball, because their meager paychecks do not cover the cost of the team hotel.
     

  • The hotel is, in many circumstances, essentially the only option because it is close to the field and many players cannot afford cars.
     

  • Players who find and can afford apartments having to pay exorbitant fees to break their leases when they are fortunate enough to be promoted higher.
     

  • Housing is inconsistent and unpredictable--players returning from road trips (which are fully covered by the team) often have no idea of where they will be sleeping that night, or if they will be able to afford it.
     

MEALS:

  • With many teams, the meals provided by the organization are simply not sufficient to fuel a professional athlete trying to learn and grow their skills.
     

  • Some teams provide only a pregame “snack” and a post-game “meal.” Players are responsible for the rest of their meals. Since many live out of the team hotels, the players are only able to have food delivered--an exorbitant cost when also covering a team hotel on a meager salary.
     

  • Our ask: team provides adequate meals, 3 times a day, for each player. Some teams have invested in real nutrition, with positive results.

 

RETALIATION:

  • Players recognize they are being exploited, but are terrified of coming forward.
     

  • We’ve encountered cases after our reporting of teams trying to intimidate players into silence. Bowie Baysox, Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
     

  • Teams are cultivating a culture of fear, since under the UPC, they can cut players for any reason. Released at any moment.
     

  • MILB is structured as a lottery system essentially, where players are making incredible sacrifices based on the slim chance that they can make it to MLB, and earn a handsome salary.
     

  • Players are entitled to a process where they can raise issues with their conditions to the clubs without fear of retaliation.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE:

 

  • Players should have a year round salary.
     

  • Safe, adequate housing provided by the team during the season.
     

  • 3 nutritious and sufficient meals befitting a professional athlete provided by the team during the season
     

  • A means by which to address issues in their workplace without fear of reprisal. Even when the league-wide problems are solved, in a system with thousands of players, there are bound to be further conflicts or situations that will need to be tackled.
     

  • If MLB chooses not to agree to these very reasonable requests, and decides to continue to collude together to exploit minor leaguers, then it is time for the government and the courts to seriously reconsider MLB’s antitrust exemption.

 

PROGRESS SO FAR:

 

  • This season, some teams have privately implemented our proposals, which were formulated in consultation with the players themselves.
     

  • It is puzzling that these teams would not want to publicize the fact that they decided to pay and treat their Minor Leaguers fairly.
     

  • We’ve heard from players on several teams that they will be receiving back pay for their months in spring training and extended spring training, for which they were previously never paid.
     

  • Most notably, the Boston Red Sox agreed to back pay for their Minor Leaguers in spring training, and additionally will be providing a $300/month housing stipend--one of our key proposals that players overwhelmingly agree would make life for Minor Leaguers better.
     

  • The Giants and Red Sox have confirmed publicly that their Minor Leaguers will be receiving back pay for spring training, while a couple of other teams have confirmed that privately but not on the record (collusion)
     

  • Many other teams have followed suit since.