Major League Baseball is expected to pay $185 million to settle the class action lawsuit filed by minor league players nearly a decade ago, ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to report. Athletic’s Evan Drellich adds (Twitter link) that the league will lift all “contractual bans against (teams) paying wages to minor-league players” for working outside of regular-season play. The agreement is still subject to final court approval.
It’s the culmination of a lawsuit first filed in 2014. The lawsuit involved the unpaid spring training process, among other aspects of minor-league salaries. MLB came under public fire for arguing that players shouldn’t be reminded of spring training without pay until February. However, this proved unsuccessful. The following month, the trial court dismissed the league’s argument that minor leagues were seasonal workers exempt from minimum wage laws.
The case went to court on June 1, but the parties reached a settlement agreement in mid-May. Terms were not reported at the time, but the league appears to have agreed to pay out $185 million in back payments. Passan notes that more than $120 million of that figure will be split among the class of players involved (the remainder likely going to court and attorney fees). One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, former minor league player Garrett Broshuis, says Drelich More than 20,000 players are expected to share these funds.
“This settlement is a monumental step for minor league players towards a fair and equitable compensation system.said Broshuis (via Passan). “As a former minor league baseball player, I’ve seen firsthand the financial struggles players face while earning poverty-level wages — or no wages at all — to pursue their major league dream. For nearly a decade, I have been honored to lead this fight and shine a light on the unfair labor practices that have long plagued America’s pastime.”
MLB released its own statement. “We are only in our second year of a major overhaul of the 100 year old player development system and have made great strides to improve the quality of life for minor league players‘ a league spokesman told Passan, citing a rise in minor league salaries in 2021 and this season’s requirement for teams to provide housing for players. “We are proud that minor league players are already receiving significant benefits, including free housing, quality health care, multiple meals per day, tuition assistance for those wishing to continue their education, and over $450 million in annual funding Contract rewards for first-year players. We are pleased that we have been able to reach an amicable solution, but cannot comment on the details until the agreement has been officially approved by the court.”
Meanwhile, the proposed lifting of the ban on payments outside of regular season play has the potential to impact countless players as they progress. Whether and how many teams will start paying minor leagues for things like spring training and instructional league is unclear. Still, the lifting of the ban must be seen as a win for groups fighting for better pay for minor leagues, most of whom are not part of the Major League Baseball Players Association and do not have their own union.