In a historic move, the Major League Baseball Players Association took an important step towards unionizing the minor leagues on Sunday night, sending out union clearance cards to minor league players. The MLBPA executive committee voted unopposed to invite minor leaguers into the union, according to a union official.
“Minor Leaguers represent the future of our game and deserve salaries and working conditions that befit the elite athletes who entertain millions of baseball fans nationwide,” the MLBPA executive director said. , Tony Clark, in a statement released Monday morning.
The cards are a way for the more than 5,000 minor league players to officially indicate their desire to be represented by the MLBPA. At least 30% of minor leaguers must complete clearance cards, which are kept confidential, to trigger an election that would be overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. In that election, if a simple majority of votes—not necessarily the entire unit—supports the union, the NLRB will demand that the league recognize the union. But the MLBPA is likely looking for and counting on a much larger show of support via Clearance Cards. If a majority of minor leaguers respond in favor of unionization, MLB may — but is not necessarily required — to voluntarily recognize the union.
It is the culmination of years of agitation and advocacy by minor leaguers, who are paid a pittance, for better pay and benefits for their services. While major league salaries are collectively negotiated by what is considered the strongest union in professional sports, minor league salaries have long been cut below minimum wage. Recent Efforts Result in $185 Million Class Action Settlement and the voluntary award of free housing and a pay raise from the league. A Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into MLB’s antitrust exemption is still ongoing and how it contributes to conditions in the minor leagues.
In the absence of official representation, nonprofits have worked to raise awareness of minor league concerns, foremost among them minor league advocates. As part of the organizing effort, the group is suspending day-to-day operations and all staff will work for the MLBPA.
“We are grateful to the many people who have spoken up to demand better treatment for minor leaguers over the past two years. Without their courage, passion and advocacy, none of this would have been possible,” Advocates for Minor Leaguers said in a statement released Monday. “While much work remains to be done, one thing is clear: better days are ahead for minor league baseball players.”
According to a union official, the minor leaguers would constitute their own separate bargaining unit and negotiations for their collective agreement would take place independently of MLB’s recent CBA.
The union is holding an all-day video conference Monday to answer questions from major league players about the process.