Minor League Baseball

Benji Gilbert of the Burlington Sock Puppets bats during the 2021 Appy League All-Star Game at Calfee Park in Pulaski, Virginia on July 27, 2021. (Photo: Matthew Winningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

'Great News' for Ball Players as MLB to Voluntarily Recognize Minor League Union Drive

"I hope the commissioner and MLB will move just as quickly to negotiate a fair first contract," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, who welcomed the move.

Labor advocates on Friday welcomed a move by Major League Baseball to recognize an effort by minor league players--who often endure grueling working conditions for near-poverty wages--to unionize.

"With 5,000 members, this is one of the largest union organizing victories in years."

Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Rob Manfred said during a Friday press conference that the league will voluntarily recognize any union representing Minor League Baseball (MiLB) players, who are attempting to unionize with the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), according toESPN.

"We, I believe, notified the MLBPA today that we're prepared to execute an agreement on voluntary recognition,'' Manfred said during a briefing in which he also discussed on-field rule changes--which include a pitch timer, limits on defensive shifts, and larger bases--for the 2023 MLB season.

"I think they're working on the language as we speak," he added.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime supporter of minor league player rights who, while mayor of Burlington, led a successful effort to bring an MiLB team--the Vermont Reds--to town, hailed Friday's announcement as a "major victory."

"Congratulations to the Minor League Baseball players who organized to make it happen," the two-time Democratic presidential candidate tweeted. "I hope the commissioner and MLB will move just as quickly to negotiate a fair first contract."

Major League Baseball (MLB) teams are worth billions of dollars and, collectively, reap roughly $10 billion in annual revenue. However, low-level MiLB players often make less than minimum wage workers earn in a 40-hour workweek in some states. Meanwhile, the odds of making it to the big leagues are about 1 in 10.

As ESPN notes:

MLB raised weekly minimum salaries for minor leaguers in 2021 to $400 at rookie and short-season levels, $500 at Class A, $600 at Double-A, and $700 at Triple-A. For players on option, the minimum is $57,200 per season for a first big league contract and $114,100 for later big league contracts. In addition, MLB this year began requiring teams to provide housing for most minor leaguers.

Others linked the minor leaguers' unionization drive to the nationwide labor resurgence.

"The recent uptick in labor organizing in fields ranging from coffee shops to Amazon warehouses to Minor League Baseball is one of the things that gives me the most hope for the future," tweeted comedian Josh Gondelman.

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