More than 50% of minor league players voted to support the formation of unions, paving the way for players to organize and join the Major League Baseball Players Association, the union announced Tuesday.
In a letter sent to MLB on Tuesday morning, the federation said it had requested voluntary recognition from the league, with MLB acknowledging that the majority of minor league players are seeking to form a union and formally accept the MLBPA as a negotiating representative.
“The Minor League players have made it unequivocally clear that they want the MLBPA to represent them and are ready to begin collective bargaining in order to positively impact next season,” MLBPA Executive Guide Tony Clark said in a statement.
If the league chooses not to recognize a specific date in the letter, the MLBPA can hold a vote through the National Labor Relations Board where more than 50% of eligible players will need to vote for unions.
Ten days after the MLBPA sent guild authorization cards to minor league players, the percentage returned exceeded the 30% threshold needed for the next step in the possibility of forming guilds. Small-league players said higher wages and better working conditions were among their top priorities.
“I’m definitely getting scared, but it seems like the right thing to do. We’ve all been caught,” said Joe Hudson, a Triple-A Durham fisherman for the Tampa Bay Rays. “There are some bewildered colleagues who just can’t believe this is actually happening. Everyone is politely positive, and moving forward. I haven’t found a single person opposing this now. It’s really a snowball effect here.”
After decades of representing only players on major league rosters of 40 players, the MLBPA is seeking to increase its rating and profile more than fourfold. The federation will represent more than 5,000 players on the local rosters and has suggested that it will later consider doing the same for players in the Dominican Summer League teams and in the Dominican teams’ pools.
The MLBPA bolstered its fledgling minor league operation by hiring staff from Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a group that helped organize players who handed out warrant cards and fought for improvements, including higher wages and housing in home towns, which the MLB has joined in recent years.
Connor Lun, a Double-A player with the St. “Previously, defenders were just trying to spread the word and people were afraid and afraid to talk about issues of what was happening, now it seems like players are talking about it more in clubs or on the field. I am not afraid to face the issue.”
The issue of secondary league salaries has been at the forefront of the sport in recent years. The vast majority of players currently receive between $400 and $700 per week and are only paid per season. MLB agreed in July to pay $185 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought by minor league players who sought pay after allegations of minimum wage and overtime violations by teams. The Senate Judiciary Committee said it plans to hold hearings on the treatment of minor league players and how the league’s antitrust exemption affects them.
“We’re seeing how things have gone over the past decades and how things will go in the future,” said the New York Mets Shortstop. Francis LindorHe is one of the eight members of the MLBPA Executive Board. “We’re going in the right direction. When I was in the minor leagues, it was about forgetting what you get paid for, forgetting to travel, heading to the big leagues and playing better. But it’s also not the way to be.
“Right now, I feel there is a greater awareness to understand that it is about getting better sleep, better travel, better food and better paychecks that help you perform at a higher level. I am happy that we are uniting them, helping them are the future and this is the beginning of every player. Baseball and they are the future of every major league team. And we hope to protect them.”
ESPN’s John Lee contributed to this report