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MLB Eliminates Dues For MiLB Players, Changes Clubbies' Responsibilities In New Proposal

Milb Clubhouse Tompriddyfourseam
(Photo by Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images)

Major League Baseball announced well before the 2020 season that salaries for minor leaguers would increase in 2021. Now, it is adding money to players’ pockets in another way.

If adopted, MLB’s latest proposal to minor league teams will reshape how clubhouse managers (known universally as clubbies) are paid and how minor league players will be fed. Under the new proposal, MLB teams will pay clubbies and provide or pay for meals at the stadium. Clubhouse dues for minor league players (which were previously paid to clubbies) will be banned. Clubhouse dues for major league players were eliminated as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that went into effect in 2017.

Under the old system, clubbies generally were paid through a stipend from the minor league team —usually in the low four-figures per month—as well as mandatory clubhouse dues and voluntary tips from players. Those dues, which ranged from roughly $8 to $15 or more a day per player, were also the funds clubbies used to buy food for pregame and postgame meals. In recent years, many MLB teams opted to pay for and provide postgame meals for players, but in most of those cases the pregame spread was still the responsibility of the clubbie funded from dues.

Under MLB’s proposal, the clubbie will be an employee hired and paid by the major league team unless they opt to farm those duties out to the minor league team. Under either scenario, the MLB team will be responsible for reimbursing the minor league team for the clubbie’s salary.

The minimum an MLB team is required to reimburse is set to be the minimum salary for a worker who can be exempt from overtime requirements. Currently that amount is $35,568. The clubbie would only be paid in-season, so it would be a prorated amount. Assuming a 152-day schedule and two weeks additional work for the preseason and end of season duties, MLB must reimburse the minor league team $16,176 to pay the clubbie for their in-season job.

With the MLB team now responsible for paying for all meals at the stadium, which can either be provided by the parent club directly or through the minor league team, and the minor league team now responsible for providing drinks, snacks, towels and beverages in the clubhouse, clubhouse dues for minor league players will no longer be permitted. MLB’s proposal would still allow players or staff to give clubbies tips.

MLB has said that Rookie-level players will go from making $290 a week in their first season to $400. Class A players in their first season in pro ball will go from making $290 a week to $500 a week under the new pay scale. Double-A players in their first year will see their pay raised from $350 to $600. Triple-A players will have their pay go from $502 to $700. In addition to the pay bump, the elimination of clubhouse dues will save most MiLB players another $40-$100 a week.

Instead of using a chunk of their salaries for mandatory clubhouse dues, minor league players will be able to pocket that money without losing the at-stadium meals necessary for players who often spend eight to 10 hours a day at the ballpark. And with MLB teams providing the meals and often hiring nutritionists, the quality of the meals is likely to rise as well. As part of facility upgrades, minor league teams are now required to provide separate areas for food preparation and dining for home and visiting teams.

For the clubbies, who have always been among the hardest-working people in baseball, the job will also change. Now they’ll need to work even harder. Under the new proposal, clubbies will be expected to travel with the team and perform their duties on the road. At least one MLB team has already been operating that way, but for most clubbies, it will require a significant change in how they work and likely will lead some to leave the job.

During home series, clubbies are the among the first people at the park and the last to leave. They have to prepare the clubhouse for the day’s game, then make sure plenty of work—such as cleaning the clubhouse and washing the uniforms—is done well after the players leave. When the team went on the road, clubbies got time to rest, recover and prepare for when the team returned. Under this proposal, a clubbie would get off days only when the team had one.

It will also mean that some of their responsibilities will likely have to be handed to someone else—road uniforms are packed and ready to go at the end of a homestand, but with the clubbie traveling with the team, someone else will need to clean the clubhouse and do the night’s laundry after the last game of a homestand.

June Al East 30

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