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Struggle to Unionize Minor League Baseball Players Grows

Recently, there’s been a growing indifference or empathy for professional athletes who complain about their wages or working condition. That is normal. For instance, consider the San Diego Padres' Fernando Tatis Jr. signing a 14-year contract that has the guarantee of $340 million but then missing all of 2022 because of a broken wrist after falling off of a motorbike and then being banned for PED use. Seriously? He finally had surgery to treat the persistent shoulder injury which kept him from playing much of last year.

In the world of minor league ball players, these types of “problems” do not exist. ZipRecruiter's statistics are telling.

As of Aug 31, 2022, the average annual pay for a Minor League Baseball Player in the United States is $36,764 a year.

Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $17.68 an hour. This is the equivalent of $707/week or $3,063/month.

While ZipRecruiter is seeing annual salaries as high as $71,000 and as low as $16,000, the majority of Minor League Baseball Player salaries currently range between $22,500 (25th percentile) to $41,500 (75th percentile) with top earners (90th percentile) making $54,000 annually across the United States. The average pay range for a Minor League Baseball Player varies greatly (by as much as $19,000), which suggests there may be many opportunities for advancement and increased pay based on skill level, location and years of experience.

Keep in mind that the minimum major league ballplayer's wage is $700K and the average pay is $4.1M. Nice work if you are skilled enough.

After articles in 2021 pointed out the poor living conditions that minor league players face, Major League Baseball (MLB) has agreed to step up in 2022 by providing housing. In this regard, it is no surprise that the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) is determined to include minor league players. After sending cards, in late August 2022, addressed to minor league players, asking if they want to join the MLBPA in the future, more than half of the players replied yes. The MLBPA has since requested MLB to accept as members the minor league players in collaboration with the AFL-CIO.

Finding truthful, impartial reports on unions from reporters that belong to one is difficult. Therefore, this is an opinion. It's not difficult to defend the idea of minor league players earning an appropriate wage. However, the first issue is who pays for this. Teams in the major leagues are responsible for for all the minor league player's wages. The minor leagues play at smaller facilities than their major league counterparts. They charge far less for tickets to both maintain a neighborhood-friendly feel and encourage people to come to the games when disposable income is often decreased. Minor league teams do not have contracts with national broadcasters to pay their bills. Everything is at the local level. In essence, there are no sources of revenue for minor leagues for any player's pay increase.

If there's to be an increase, it's going to have come from major league owners, who aren't happy about paying their current players’ high salaries, let alone possible ones. For each Los Angeles Dodgers or San Diego Padres eagerly backing the truck into their clubs, there's an Oakland Athletics or Pittsburgh Pirates barely able to pay for the lights for their night games. In theory, it would require minimum and maximum salaries for minor leagues that are similar to one another, the teams with lower salaries would be angry. Additionally, it is possible that the MLB would seek a limitation on individual and team wages to keep high-end buyers from purchasing everyone good.

Another issue to consider is how minor league unionization agreements could result in the end of one of the major league baseball's fundamentals. For instance, teams that are trying to rebuild or are significantly underperforming and looking to trade their best or most experienced players to teams in return for a plethora of minor league players. One of the major reasons for sellers in this kind of market is to save money, when the price of two or three elite minor leaguers is similar to the amount that a player who is already established earns, the math is easy.

To sum up, there's every reason to believe that MLB and the MLBPA will do everything in their power to mess things up and turn even more people away from professional sports.

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