As Major League Baseball agreed to pay $185 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the league violated federal pay laws in compensating the minor leagues, an advocacy group called the settlement “the first step” to overhaul the minor league’s pay structure.
“We will not be satisfied until minor leaguers sit down at the negotiating table to negotiate fair wages and working conditions, which is the norm in professional sports,” the nonprofit said in a statement. Minor league quarterbacks said in a statement on Friday.
The settlement, according to documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, provides $120 million to approximately 20,000 minor league players who participated in the California League and spring training or extended spring training in Arizona back in 2009. the number of eligible players and the amount each player will receive are undetermined.
MLB argued that travel time and spring training time should not be counted toward pay for work that the league believes is akin to seasonal work. In March, Judge Joseph Spero ruled that minor league members should be considered year-round workers.
As part of the settlement, MLB agreed to lift its ban on payments to minor league players outside of the regular season and advise teams that they “must compensate minor league players in accordance with wage and hour laws” during spring training and extended spring training.
In 2018—four years after the lawsuit was filed—MLB convinced Congress to pass legislation that required teams to pay minimum wage to minor league players during the regular season, but exempted them from paying overtime.
The minimum annual salary in the top three A’s is around $14,000, while the minimum annual salary in the top tier of minor hockey leagues is $52,000. The Senate Judiciary Committee is examining whether baseball’s antitrust exemption could partially or fully explain the difference, lawyers and their allies say.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the Times This week, the “really meaningful” application of the antitrust exemption was to allow the league to control the movement of the franchise. He said he does not believe the exemption limits minor league pay.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “In recent years, we have made significant improvements to pay, hours, and working conditions in minor league baseball. We pay more. Working conditions are improving significantly. Travel is less. Schools are better. And 90% of the minor leagues get housing.
“Another thing to keep in mind is that minor league baseball exists as a result of hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies from Major League Baseball.”
Settlement dollars not divided among all eligible players will be divided between legal fees, administrative expenses and additional payments to players who provided their names for the lawsuit.