Advocates for Minor Leaguers sends letter to Congress asking for same protections extended to MLB players

The executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers smashed Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption in a letter to the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, urging Congress to give minor leagues the same protections already given to major leagues as according to a copy of the letter obtained by ESPN.

Harry Marino, whose group has campaigned for higher salaries and expanded rights for the more than 5,000 minor league players, gave harsh responses to the minor league committee’s investigation, claiming that MLB “abused its exemption rule to the detriment of the American people.” and to regard its practices towards players as “minor league conspiracy”.

Citing low salaries, a fixed pay scale, and legislation that allows MLB teams to avoid paying minimum wage or overtime for minor league players, Marino wrote that Congress should expand the Curt Flood Act, the law of 1998, which repealed the league’s antitrust exemption for labor matters Major League Players. Doing the same thing in the minor leagues, Marino wrote, could have significant implications, as it would allow minor league players “to negotiate the length and terms of their original minor league contracts with their major league teams, knowing that they… would do so at the end of those original contracts They are free to sign with whichever major league team is willing to offer them the best overall compensation package.

“This competition,” continued Marino, “would help bring wages and working conditions to fair market levels and lift players out of poverty.”

Currently, triple-A players make at least $700 per week, double-A players $600, single-A players $500, and complex league players $400. Six teams are not paying players who are in extended spring training camps, according to Advocates for Minor Leaguers. Players will also receive signing bonuses ranging from $1,000 to the $8 million received by Gerrit Cole for picking #1 overall in the 2011 draft.

The judiciary’s investigation into the minor leagues began with a June 28 letter signed by leaders from both parties: Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Mike Lee, and Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Dick Durbin, the latter the committee’s chairman. who, during the MLB lockout in March, told The Chicago Sun-Times “it’s far too late for us to hold a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on this issue.” In the letter, the senators asked Marino six questions regarding the antitrust exemption granted to MLB in 1922 and remaining in place despite efforts to reverse it.

The exception grants MLB protection from federal antitrust laws that combat anticompetitive practices and collusion, and gives the league the ability to influence the relocation of franchises and draw the boundaries of a territorial rights map that allows teams, among other things, television broadcasts to darken. Perhaps the most significant benefit of the exemption is MLB’s unilateral control of the minor leagues.

In 2020, the league signed 42 of its 162 affiliates out of the minors, and Marino wrote that he worries MLB will close the minor leagues despite the 10-year player development licenses every minor league team signs ahead of the 2021 season has, will continue to shrink.

“It’s only a matter of time before the MLB owners let us know that they intend to bring another wrecking ball to our national game,” Marino wrote. “As we sit here today, another round of minor league shrinkage – fewer players and more devastated communities – seems inevitable.

While Marino answered questions about international players (“they face constant exploitation,” he wrote) and the Save America’s Pastime Act, which in 2018 codified teams’ ability to circumvent minimum wage and overtime laws (“the reason Major League Baseball owners for which the law was a blatant and demonstrable lie,” he wrote), much of his letter focused on improving conditions for those who play the game – and, he argued, for those who watch it as well.

“The minor league conspiracy,” Marino wrote, “was devastating to baseball players and fans across the country.” Advocates for Minor Leaguers sends letter to Congress asking for same protections extended to MLB players

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