Majority of minor league baseball players vote to support union, paving way for MLBPA membership, sources say

More than 50% of minor league players voted to unionize, paving the way for players to organize and join the Major League Baseball Players Association, sources confirmed to ESPN.

In a letter sent to MLB Tuesday morning, the union asked for voluntary league recognition in which MLB would recognize that a majority of minor league players are seeking to unionize and formally accept the MLBPA as their bargaining agent. If the league decides not to recognize by a date specified in the letter, the MLBPA could hold a vote on the National Labor Relations Board that would require more than 50% of eligible players to vote for unionization.

Ten days after the MLBPA mailed out union permit cards to minor league players, the percentage of returns first reported by The Athletic far exceeded the 30% threshold required for the next step in potential unionization. Minor league players have said that higher wages and better working conditions are among their top priorities.

“I’m definitely scared, but this feels right. We’re all jacked,” said Joe Hudson, a catcher at Triple-A Durham in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. “There are some confused teammates who can’t believe this is actually happening. Everyone just raves about positivity and moves forward. I haven’t met a guy who’s against it right now. It’s really a snowball effect here.”

After decades of only representing players on the 40-man rosters of major league teams, the MLBPA is looking to expand its base by more than fourfold. The union would represent more than 5,000 players in the national squads and has suggested it later consider doing the same for players in the Dominican Summer League teams and in the teams’ Dominican complexes.

The MLBPA has bolstered its burgeoning minor league operation by hiring staff from Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a group that has helped organize the players who distributed the authorization cards and has campaigned for improvements, including higher wages and hometown lodging, which MLB has joined in recent years.

“People are more open to talking about what’s going on,” said Connor Lunn, a double-A pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals. “It used to be just the Advocates trying to get the word out and people were shy and afraid to talk about the issues, what’s going on and now it seems players are talking about it more in the clubhouses or on the pitch . They’re not that afraid to face the problem.”

The issue of minor league pay has come to the fore in sports in recent years. The vast majority of players are currently making between $400 and $700 per week and are only paid during the season. MLB agreed in July to pay $185 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit filed by minor-league players seeking payment following alleged minimum wage and overtime violations by teams. The Senate Judiciary Committee has announced it will hold hearings on the treatment of minor league players and the impact of the league’s antitrust exemption on them.

“We’re seeing how things have worked over the last several decades and how things are going to work in the future,” said New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, who is one of the eight members of the MLBPA board of directors. “We are on the right path. When I was in the minor leagues it was so much about forgetting what you pay for, forgetting about travel, just making it to the big leagues and playing better. But it’s not the way to be either.

“Right now I feel like there’s a lot more awareness that it’s about better sleep, better travel, better food and better paychecks that help you work at a higher level. I’m excited that we’re working to unionize them, to help them. They’re the future and that’s the beginning of every baseball player and they’re the future of every major league team. We hope to protect her.”

ESPN’s Joon Lee contributed to this report Majority of minor league baseball players vote to support union, paving way for MLBPA membership, sources say

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