MLB Players Association Pushing to Unionize the Minor Leagues

Well. Today just got a little crazy, with an undetermined period thereafter also being wild and new and potentially historic.

Per multiple reports, the Major League Baseball Players Association has organized an effort to unionize minor league baseball players:

Major League Baseball’s Players Association is trying to get minor league players on board with joining their union so that their rights can be negotiated by the MLBPA and minor league representatives. Finally, minor league players would have an actual seat at the bargaining table. To say this would be a major change to the sport is a dramatic understatement. The change, itself, would be massive, and the fallout/ramifications could be even more seismic.

As a practical matter, what will happen is that if enough minor league players authorize the MLBPA to bargain on their behalf (it’s a multi-step process involving not only those parties, but the National Labor Relations Board), the MLB will have to recognize minor league players as union members. That will mean collective bargaining on the rights and privileges of minor league players – potentially better pay, better working conditions, better living conditions, etc.

The treatment of minor league baseball players has always been a frustrating issue, and one that has really come to the fore in the last few years. By effectively offering to bring minor league players into the fold, big league players are theoretically giving up some of their own future take (bargaining for more for minor leaguers will be used as a chip by MLB to offer less to the big league players), though it doesn’t have to be that way. I could see MLB arguing that the way to avoid that trade-off is by further shrinking the minor leagues (sigh), but I might say there are ways to create even more value for ALL parties if minor league players were better supported financially, and had to worry only about their baseballs lives.

It’s a long and potentially fraught road, so I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself in laying out the implications here. I can say with confidence, though, that things will never be the same from here, because even in the event that these efforts fail, you can’t unring the bell. Efforts to unionize the minor leagues would likely continue, in different forms. Relational strength – or damage – will occur simply by virtue of this process being started. Groundwork will be ugly. Responses will be offered. Ugliness will come. Changes to the game will be made. That stuff is all happening now no matter how this particular organizing effort goes.

Stay tuned, because MLB is going to respond, and it will not be pretty.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.