The MLBPA takes the first step in forming micro-guilds: What does this mean for players, MLB and what’s next

Some surprising news fell on the labor front on Monday when the Major League Baseball Players Association — the union that represents MLB players on 40-man rosters — announced that Work will begin towards the goal of representing minor league players.

In addition, the Small League Defenders, the organization dedicated to improving the working conditions of minor league players, will be willingly absorbed by the MLBPA to assist in the union’s efforts. The minor league’s defenders released a statement Monday saying they were “happy with this development.”

In a press release about the initiative, the MLBPA referred to the surprise announcement as a “historic effort,” and indeed it is. Minor League players are not formally represented by an authorized negotiating unit, but such a development is now a real possibility and perhaps a strong possibility.

Needless to say, the implications of this news are large and widespread, and there is a need for further exploration of this union trend and what it means for the sport. Here, then, is a brief explanation of the main considerations arising from Monday’s announcement.

Why is the MLBPA making such an effort now

In many ways, it’s the next logical step in empowering professional baseball players. In recent years, a lot of focus has been placed on the low wages and poor living conditions that many small league players are experiencing. This is largely thanks to the work of the Advocates organization mentioned above. To name a few, the defenders have effectively contacted the current generation of small gangs Roads that – in their view – lack working conditions and exploitation is the norm. This, no doubt, helped create a huge wave among the players of the minor leagues.

also, – As Mark Normandin points out in his newsletter devoted to baseball work issues A group of former players not long ago successfully sued the MLB over working conditions, which may have contributed to the current mood of solidarity. On a broader level, the fact that the US Senate Judiciary Committee is Currently holding MLB’s century-old antitrust exemption – and specifically with regard to smaller unions – the MLBPA may have been encouraged to take this step because of the change in leverage.

How does the union process work and what’s next

The next step is for players to receive and/or send their voting cards. It stands to reason that leaders of the movement and the MLBPA believe there is substantive support for union organizing, certainly much more than the 30 percent required for them to apply for elections with the National Labor Relations Board – or else they wouldn’t come forward. at this time. The exact amount of support is an important piece of information, since the potential responses from the MLB that we have highlighted below will end up in the supporting body. The MLB could theoretically recognize a union without an election, but the odds of that are presumably slim. It is also useful to consider the election schedule: As noted by union lawyer Eugene Friedman on Twitterthe MLB may attempt to delay the election on the grounds that the negotiating unit will suffer significant turnover if the process extends beyond this season.

A precedent for other minor leagues

This is very clear. Players can look to other sports for examples of junior associations successfully joining unions. The Professional Hockey Players Association was founded in the late 1960s, making it as old as the MLBPA. In 2020, the National Basketball Players Association (NBA) helped League G players form the Basketball Players Association. (The NBPA still represents players with dual contracts, for those who question the gray area.) Even the Pennsylvania United Soccer League players have joined unions in recent years, laying out a blueprint for future regulation.

Why would smaller guilds want to form guilds

In general, there is no guaranteed way to get higher wages, better benefits, and other improved working conditions than from unions. It is clear that players who defend themselves with a single negotiating unit and have the ability to prevent their collective action are much more effective than pressing a single number or a small number of small players to achieve the same goals. Data on wages and benefits for unionized versus non-union workers proves this across a range of industries.

On a more specific level, MLB’s decision to sign more than 40 affiliated minor league teams It raised legitimate concerns that Commissioner Rob Manfred and the team’s owners aspire to further deflation – which would necessarily mean losing minor league jobs to players – and the best way to avoid this assumption is union representation.

How will MLB . respond?

MLB has yet to release an official response to the news. In theory, they could try to intimidate or dissuade players from organizing by choosing the kinds of tactics prevalent in other labor movements across the country: whether it’s an aggressive disinformation campaign, and/or their version of shutting down Starbucks. Location: Threatens to make further cuts to the minor league system. Of course, the above-mentioned interest in the Judiciary Committee in MLB’s treatment of minor league players may convince them to play nicer – or better, at least. This doesn’t necessarily mean MLB will rush to recognize the federation, if the players’ efforts are successful, but it could prevent some of the more sinister potential tactics. Again, though, these are all speculation and theory at this point in the process. Whatever way they treat it, it’s worth noting it Manfred worked once for One of the most prominent anti-employment law firms in the country. Whatever the playbook is, he is familiar with it.