With the relationship between Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association deteriorating, the Player’s Association has already hired a lead negotiator to take place of executive director Tony Clark. The new negotiator will be tasked with negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement before the current one expires in 2020.
There are a number of important issues both sides wish to address, and as usual, it is likely minor league players will be left behind because they don’t have a seat at the negotiating table.
This is troubling because while the owners and players are dickering over millions or even billions of dollars, minor league players are fighting to get paid enough money to afford to eat. At the moment, first-year players earn $1,100 per month for their three month season, and first-year Triple-A players earn $10,750 a year.
Despite fully acknowledging the hardships players experience in the minors, in Bill Shakin’s recent article for the Los Angeles Times, Major League player, acknowledge why minor leaguers rights and monies are ultimately disregarded.
Indians reliever Andrew Miller acknowledged the problem by saying, “there might be a possibility for us to pressure the MLB side to raise wages on the minor league side. However, we would probably be sacrificing, say, arbitration, or some sort of dollars that are being spent on us elsewhere. That is just the reality of the deal.”
Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta says, “In terms of the minor league guys, we try to do as much as we possibly can for them, but obviously it’s a major league union at this point.”
With the players being fully aware of what they are doing to minor leaguers in negotiations, it would seem the only way for minor leaguers to fight for livable wages would be for them to organize and force their own way to the negotiating table. It is a concept Major League players do not resist, but the question remains on just how minor league players can accomplish that.
The problem is no one seems interested in truly helping minor league players.
Minor league players have contacted United Steelworkers, who is not going to undergo an organizing drive. The Professional Hockey Players Association has also been contacted by minor leaguers, but they are similarly disinterested. That’s troublesome for players because that union was able to increase wages to $47,500 at the highest levels of the minor leagues.
The wages minor league hockey players should be achievable for minor league players, but there does not seem to be a path for minor leaguers to get there.
Major League players readily admit they will negotiate away wages and perks for minor leaguers in exchange for better salaries. We have seen owners lobby to suppress minor league wages and fought every lawsuit which has been filed, and they have yet to institute a livable wage on their own volition.
In the end, everyone acknowledges minor leaguers need more pay, but no one is willing to assist them. Players won’t. Owners won’t. Other labor unions won’t.
This means somehow, some way, a group of teenagers and young adults who speak many different languages spread across the country need to find a way to come together. Without any help, it’s a seemingly surmountable series of obstacles, which means things may very well remain the same.