SEE ALSO: Minor League Lawsuit Archive
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—In its continued effort to fight a lawsuit brought by a group of former players seeking increased wages and back pay, Minor League Baseball on Monday announced the establishment of a political action committee.
MiLB president Pat O’Conner and Stan Brand, the league’s chief legal counsel, announced the creation of the PAC at the opening session of this year’s Winter Meetings. The goal of the PAC, Brand said, was to lobby Congress for help the league’s “legislative issues.”
“I think it’s everything,” Brand said. “And … while (the players’ lawsuit is) the most immediate and pressing, it’s probably true that we’re going to face this down the road in some other format. Rather than, as I said, wait to remobilize, we’re going to be proactive, get engaged, get our troops engaged, get an infrastructure in place that allows us to immediately respond.”
The league scored a significant victory this summer when the judge presiding over the case in district court in San Francisco ruled that the players’ suit, as it was constructed, could not proceed as a class-action lawsuit.
The logic behind the ruling was that the minor league experience varied so starkly from player to player that it would be difficult to apply one ruling to all cases.
Specifically, the players are seeking the enforcement of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which entitles workers to a minimum wage, which varies in each state. Minor league players are not covered by this law, however, and as result are paid very little.
Minor league salaries begin at around $1,100 per month at the lowest levels, and the players are paid only in-season. They do not get paid during spring training, instructional league or in the Arizona Fall League.
Phillies farmhand Dylan Cozens told the crowd assembled to watch him receive his Joe Baumann Award for leading the minor leagues in home runs that the $8,000 prize that came with the honor was more than he made all season.
In response to the judge’s ruling, the players, whose legal team is led by former player and now lawyer Garrett Broshuis, re-formatted their case to include only players who spend all season in one state. For example, those who play in the Rookie-level Arizona and Gulf Coast Leagues, and the high Class A Florida State and California Leagues. Those players’ wages would fall under one minimum wage all season long, and their experiences would be uniform enough to possibly qualify for inclusion in a class-action lawsuit.
Minor league baseball’s caucus in Congress has turned over considerably since its creation, and the establishment of the PAC is part of an effort to reorganize the league’s presence on Capitol Hill.
“Because of procedurally what has happened in the Congress and the difficulties in getting legislation, we’ve got to adjust to that,” Brand said. “We were lucky. We had the ability because of the depth of the relationships and involvement in the communities to not have to worry about that. And now we do, I think. The PAC . . . gives us another tool to re-enforce who we are and why we’re important.”
This summer, two Congressional representatives—Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.)—introduced the Save America’s Pastime Bill, which was designed to combat the players’ lawsuit. After receiving intense pressure on social media, Bustos dropped her support for the bill.
O’Conner threw his support behind the bill at the time.
"Minor League Baseball would like to thank Congressman Guthrie and Congresswoman Bustos for their leadership on this issue facing Minor League Baseball and for gathering bipartisan Congressional support," he said.
"For over 115 years, Minor League Baseball has been a staple of American communities, large and small, and with the help of Congressman Guthrie, Congresswoman Bustos and other members of Congress, it will remain so for years to come."