Major League Baseball is engaged in talks that could lead to significant changes to the labor situation of minor-league ballplayers, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reports. Initial talks have been held with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, with “significant increase in salaries, a higher standard of living conditions and better transportation” all on the table.
It’s important to bear in mind that — so far as is apparent from the report — this is a negotiation about rather than with labor. Passan characterizes the initial discussions as a “collective-bargaining session,” though it’s not clear that reflects the situation. The NAPBL is the governing body of Minor League Baseball. It does not, however, represent minor-league players themselves. Neither is it clear whether the MLB Players Association is involve at this stage.
The office of commissioner Rob Manfred seems to be the driving force behind these discussions. While the league successfully secured federal protection for its low-wage approach to the pre-MLB labor force, that also served to boost the visibility of a longstanding issue that is the subject of still-pending litigation. The Blue Jays recently instituted an increased pay scale for their minor-leaguers, which has further nudged things along, and Passan says there’s a recognition at the ownership level that working-condition improvements are warranted.
Details on prospective changes are unknown and still must be negotiated. The actual agreement up for discussion is the MLB-NAPBL accord — a deal that expires in 2020. It had been extended back in 2011, with the sides indicating that the status quo was working to no small amount of mutual satisfaction. That’s no longer the case, at least from the MLB perspective, though that’s not to say that there’s any acrimony in the relationship. The rub of the matter may be that, as Passan puts it, “the expectation is that minor league affiliates would pick up at least some of the burden of the various improvements.” Apart from the salary question, the sides will need to agree upon and sort out the burden of potential workplace and travel improvements.
It remains to be seen what course these talks will take and to what extent they’ll meaningfully improve the lot of minor-league ballplayers.