State Watch

California state senator proposes Minor League Baseball players’ bill of rights

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A California state senator has proposed new legislation to give Minor League Baseball players new rights and protections that would guarantee higher pay and better working conditions.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Josh Becker (D), would subject minor leaguers to California labor laws, requiring teams to pay them a living wage. It would limit a player’s first contract to four years, so that players are not locked into low-wage deals if their careers take off.

“Baseball is called America’s pastime and Minor Leaguers are just asking for what every American worker wants,” Becker said in a statement announcing the legislation. “These players are asking for fair treatment and the opportunity to make a decent living under decent conditions.”

Becker’s office said typical minor leaguers work for low wages and do not have the same control over their name, image and likeness that major leaguers — and, increasingly, college athletes — enjoy.

The median salary for a minor league ballplayer is just $12,000, according to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a group founded in 2020 by three former players to represent those who have yet to make it to the show. Anyone who earns less than $13,590 is considered impoverished under federal guidelines.

Minor league players are exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime laws under the Fair Labor Standards Act, after a provision Congress passed in omnibus spending legislation in 2018 at the behest of Major League Baseball.

“For decades, MLB’s billionaire owners have conspired to exploit Minor League players, forcing each player to sign the same unconscionable uniform player contract,” said Harry Marino, executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers.

The proposal comes after many states have advanced so-called name, image and likeness laws that give college athletes the right to profit from endorsement deals. California was among the first states in the nation to approve a name, image and likeness bill, which supporters say helps players benefit without costing colleges or universities that profit from their performance.

Becker’s office said the state Senate is expected to take up and act on the proposal later this year.

The announcement came hours before a federal judge ruled Tuesday that minor leaguers should be classified as full-time workers who should be compensated for travel time, spring training and other activities that take place before or after game time.

Federal Judge Joseph Spero ruled Tuesday in favor of minor leaguers in a case filed in 2014, which alleges violations of federal minimum wage laws in California, Arizona and Florida. Spero ruled that teams are liable for at least $1.8 million for violations of California’s wage laws.

Tags California Minor league baseball

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