Minor League Baseball is Moving Toward Unionizing



Just over one week ago, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) sent authorization cards asking Minor League baseball players to designate the MLBPA as the Minor Leaguers’ collective bargaining representative. Now, as reported by Evan Drellich of The Athletic, a majority of Minor Leaguers have returned the union authorization cards to the MLBPA, designating the MLBPA as their collective bargaining representative—a key step in forming a union with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).


Ordinarily, if 30% of workers sign authorization cards, the NLRB can require an election to determine their representative. However, due to a majority of Minor League baseball players designating the MLBPA as their collective bargaining representative, Major League Baseball can voluntarily recognize the union and thus bypass an election.


The MLBPA has sent a letter to Major League Baseball requesting that Major League Baseball voluntarily recognize the MLBPA as Minor Leaguers’ representative. However, Major League Baseball may not grant the MLBPA’s request. Although the organization has not issued an answer to the MLBPA’s request, it is likely that Major League Baseball would rather go through the election process and challenge or appeal to election results.


The MLBPA is capitalizing on Major League Baseball being under the microscope regarding wages for Minor Leaguers. Over the past couple of months, both Advocates for Minor Leaguers, an organization dedicated to improving working conditions for Minor League baseball players, and Major League Baseball have responded to written questions from the United States Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption and its effect on Minor Leaguers. While the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has yet to issue a formal response, the committee has previously stated that it will hold a hearing on the issue.


Designating the MLBPA as Minor League baseball players’ union representative would be monumental for the players and teams. If Minor League baseball players are able to collectively bargain with Major League Baseball, players across the country would see better benefits and living conditions and higher wages, including likely pushing yearly salaries higher than the living wage. At the same time, the MLBPA’s membership would grow from 1,200 Major League baseball players to more than 5,000 across Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball.


Until then, the MLBPA has made it clear that improving working conditions for Minor League baseball players is a priority that needs addressing.


Landis Barber is an attorney at Safran Law Offices in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or via his blog offthecourtdocket.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Landisbarber.