Home / Sport / Congress’ ‘Save America’s Pastime Act’ would allow teams to pay minor-leaguers less than minimum wage

Congress’ ‘Save America’s Pastime Act’ would allow teams to pay minor-leaguers less than minimum wage

Major League Baseball might soon score a big win in its ongoing efforts to avoid paying minor-leaguers at a reasonable rate.

Later this week, Congress is expected to vote on a new $1.3 trillion spending package to keep the government up and running. Tucked away on page 1,967 of the 2,232-page document is the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” which would allow major-league clubs to continue paying their minor-league players below minimum wage.

Here is the page in question:

For years MLB has been lobbying lawmakers for such a provision, allowing them to continue paying minor-leaguers peanuts. They argue baseball players are seasonal workers — similar to extra cashiers at department stores around the holidays — not subject to minimum wage laws, and also that tracking hours and overtime would be impossible.

Minor-leaguers, most of whom did not receive a big signing bonus as an amateur, make as little as $1,150 a month in the minors. A Triple-A player on the 40-man roster with no MLB time could pull down slightly more than $40,000 in a season. That’s about as good as it gets for players with no big-league time.

Minor-league players are paid by their MLB parent club, not their minor-league team. MLB contends that, if forced to pay minor-leaguers minimum wage, they would have to ask the minor-league teams to contribute to salaries, which could put them out of business. You would think that MLB teams would want to invest in the well-being of their prospects, but apparently not.

Keep in mind that, at any given moment during the season, there are about 4,500 players on minor-league rosters. Paying each of them an extra $300 per month would equal another $8.1 million total for the season. That’s about one-third of what the Atlanta Braves will pay Adrian Gonzalez to play for the New York Mets this season.

Lawsuits attempting to increase minor-league salaries have generally gone nowhere and the MLB Players Association has been no help. Minor-leaguers not on 40-man rosters — the vast majority — are not union members, so the MLBPA mostly ignores them during collective bargaining talks. Even the name, the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” is gross. 

Yes, baseball players have a really cool job and they’re lucky to play a game for a living. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be fairly compensated. Lots of people love their jobs. They shouldn’t take a smaller salary just because though. This is nothing more than a blatant cash grab by MLB’s owners, and it stands a good chance to become law later this week.

Mike Axisa

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