Just in time for the official start to the 2017 baseball season, class status has been granted to thousands of disgruntled Minor League Baseball (MiLB) players who argue that they should be paid the minimum wage and overtime. The players are from different “clubs” across the state of California who work countless hours throughout both the official season and the off-season, participating in conditioning and training in addition to playing official games. Minor League Baseball is part of a player feeder system for Major League Baseball (MLB) and many MLB players have traditionally considered the long hours and comparably bad pay to all be a part of a younger player “paying his dues” before being moved to the Majors.
The suit, originally filed in February 2014 in California federal court, has consistently been faced with fierce opposition from the MLB and suffered multiple legal setbacks in court before ultimately being granted class status by U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero. Spero’s decision to grant class status was not without its own complication. The class was initially granted conditional class status in October 2015 before being decertified in July 2016. Since the July decertification, the plaintiff players have amended their complaint, causing Spero to ultimately grant class certification.
The MLB has aggressively fought against the suit arguing that class status was not appropriate as the MiLB players’ experiences vary greatly—each player having different arrival times for games and fluctuating hours spent on practice and conditioning. The MLB further argues that Minor League players are well compensated for their time, alleging that it spent $500 million last season on MiLB player salaries and signing bonuses. However, players in the Minors are quick to point out that $500 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the record-breaking $10 billion in revenue that the MLB brought in last season. The MiLB players further argue that they work over 50 hours per week and sometimes earn as little as $1,100 per month. In response to these claims, the MLB maintains that players are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act and should be treated the same as creative professionals like artists and musicians.
Many have speculated that due to the length of time the case has been in existence in conjunction with the opening of baseball season, increased pressure on the MLB may lead to a settlement.
The case is: Senne et al. v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball et al., case no.: 3-14-cv-00608, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
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