Minor league unionization sparks player interest

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Minor league baseball players are a warm bunch. They’re used to long bus rides, low wages, low job security, and have traditionally viewed those inconveniences as the cost of chasing a Major League Baseball dream.

Some of these things might start to change.

Players from the Single-A Tampa Tarpons — which is an affiliate of the New York Yankees — have spoken individually about efforts to unionize minor league players and the idea is gaining momentum. The Major League Baseball Players Association took the initiative to send out union permission cards earlier this week, paving the way for thousands more players to potentially join the organization.

“It’s something a lot of people are interested in,” said Tarpons center fielder Spencer Jones, a former Vanderbilt star, ranked 25th overall in this year’s draft.

“As we get more information, I’m sure the guys will get into it more. It’s definitely something I’m interested in and I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like in the future. coming.

Cards signed by 30% of the minor leaguers in the bargaining unit would allow the union to file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board asking for a union authorization election, which would be decided by a majority. Minor league players would have a separate bargaining unit from their big league counterparts.

“It looks like 30% will be quite achievable, so we’ll see.” said Tampa reliever Ryan Anderson, a 2019 12th-round selection. “I got the text and stuff like that, so I’m thinking about sending it. There’s definitely some upside.”

While the average major league salary is over $4 million, players on minor league contracts earn as little as $400 a week during the six-month season. While a handful of minor league players will eventually get the big payday, the vast majority won’t.

“We found that 74% of guys think they’re going to make the majors and that number is actually around 10%. The average career is three to five years,” said Simon Rosenblum-Larson, co-founder and director of the More Than Baseball program, which advocated for better working conditions for minor league players and also pitched for four years with the Tampa Bay Rays organization before being released in June.

Rosenblum-Larson thinks a union could help those three-to-five-year-olds be slightly more lucrative. He said the idea of ​​joining the MLBPA is appealing to many players because they’ve seen what the big league union has done for salaries over the years.

“I watched it, kind of what they’re trying to do with unionization,” Anderson said. “It makes a lot of sense on our end because we don’t have a union, so whatever we can have in our favor that will give us, maybe, better benefits down the line, I think that’s is a good thing.”

MLB estimates that there are between 5,000 and 6,500 U.S.-based minor leaguers at any given time, with that number increasing as new players sign each summer. It’s a diverse group of players that includes teenagers and others in their thirties at higher levels.

MLB increased weekly minimum wages for minor leaguers in 2021 to $400 at the rookie and short-season level, $500 in Class A, $600 in Double-A and $700 in Triple-A. For optional players, the minimum is $57,200 per season for a first big league contract and $114,100 for subsequent big league contracts.

If minor leaguers decide to unionize, dues should be minimal, given their current low pay.

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AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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