New Legislation Could Keep Many Minor League Baseball Players in Poverty

The lowest amount of money a major league baseball player can earn is $300,000 putting even the lowest earning player well up in the highest 1% in our society. But it's a very different story in the minor leagues, where a much larger number players earn surprisingly smaller salaries, and have very few of protections that major leaguers enjoy. Perhaps most alarming of all, minor leaguers aren't even allowed to collect overtime pay, earning as little as $2,200 a month. In 2014, minor league baseball players filed a lawsuit against Major League Baseball demanding more protection and overtime pay, citing the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Now is Congress trying to legislate away this lawsuit with a new bill: the Save America’s Pastime Act, which was introduced by Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL). The legislation would amend the federal Fair Labor Standards Act to clarify that minor league baseball players are not subject to the law. The political move was celebrated by Minor League Baseball. In a statement, Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner expressed his gratitude:

"Minor League Baseball would like to thank Congressman Guthrie and Congresswoman Bustos for their leadership on this issue facing Minor League Baseball and for gathering bipartisan Congressional support. For over 115 years, Minor League Baseball has been a staple of American communities, large and small, and with the help of Congressman Guthrie, Congresswoman Bustos and other members of Congress, it will remain so for years to come.”

O'Conner's words, and the title of the bill, suggests that modifications have to be made in order to save Minor League Baseball from folding in cities throughout America, but it relies on fans potentially misunderstanding the actual economic structure of these leagues. In 2014, Baseball Prospectus' Kate Morrison pushed back against the fable of grassroots baseball and explained what actually goes on:

Minor league baseball will continue to exist even if teams are forced to pay their farm systems a living wage. Communities’ investments in stadia and infrastructure have little or nothing to do with what minor leaguers are paid...The cities of Frisco, Tulsa, Montgomery, Wilmington, Greensboro etc. and their support of the teams and ballparks have nothing to do with the team put on the field. “Grassroots baseball?” There’s nothing grassroots about organized professional minor league ball.

The Save America’s Pastime Act might seem like a non-controversial piece of legislation, but there's reason to believe it's anything but. As baseball writer Keith Law tweeted at the bill's sponsors, "Protecting millionaire owners over kids making under minimum wage. Who are we saving?"

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