While MLB players were doing their best to put a shiny face on the new CBA as progress, before watching baseball act like baseball again unless you play for the Mets, their minor league counterparts did actually change the landscape a bit last night.
In a summary judgment U.S. District Judge Joseph Spero ruled that minor league players are full-time, year-round employees of both their teams and MLB, and that Major League Baseball violated Arizona’s minimum wage law and did not comply with California wage requirements. The players were awarded nearly $2 million in damages.
Here’s a segment of Spero’s ruling:
These are not students who have enrolled in a vocational school with the understanding that they would perform services, without compensation, as part of the practical training necessary to compete the training and obtain a license.
Now employment rules vary by state, and you can bet that MLB and MLB owners are going to start scrambling to put out fires wherever they can starting today. This case still has to go to trial, which it does in June. But there could be more awarded there, as MLB’s argument that spring training didn’t need to be paid and wasn’t actual work for minor leaguers is almost certainly going to get blown to smithereens.
$1.8 million isn’t anything to MLB and its owner cabal, but it will matter to those in this class-action. And more are going to come with their hands out, you would expect.
It’s particularly galling that MLB gutted the minors under the guise of improving facilities, but not providing adequate housing, or nutrition, or pay for the offseason that would allow minor leaguers to train in the way their counterparts do in other sports. This is a first step into setting that right.
Remember that MLB had to be dragged kicking and screaming just to provide housing for minor leagues, so you can imagine the bed-wetting that will go on here.
Of course, all MLB front offices really care about are their prime prospects, who can lean on bigger signing bonuses along with the loose buttons they get paid while in the minors. Hopefully this will put a stop to that in time. But then again, it will probably just result in MLB contracting the minors even more.