The Major League Baseball Players Association announced Tuesday morning that a “significant” majority of minor leaguers have signed authorization cards in favor of the MLBPA creating a minor league bargaining unit. The MLBPA has formally requested that MLB recognize its new effort to represent minor leaguers. Evan Drellich of The Athletic first reported that the union had received majority support from minor leaguers on the matter and requested voluntary recognition from MLB.
The MLBPA first sent authorization cards to minor league players last week — a first step toward unionizing minor league players who have previously lacked the representation and collective bargaining capabilities enjoyed by Major League players. If MLB chooses not to acknowledge the the MLBPA as the new bargaining unit for minor league players, the MLBPA can (and surely will) file a motion with the federal National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). That will prompt an election among the minor league players, and if there’s a majority among those who vote in that election, the NLRB would subsequently require Major League Baseball to recognize the MLBPA as the bargaining unit of minor league players.
It’s another notable step in what appears to be a fast-moving process. MLB has yet to comment on the unionization effort whatsoever, so it remains wholly unclear when or whether the league will provide a response. The MLBPA can push forward and pursue an NLRB-prompted election at any time, so if commissioner Rob Manfred and his team continue to remain silent on the matter, the union can still advance the process. An MLBPA official told MLBTR last week that the proposed unionization efforts would give minor leaguers their own separate bargaining unit under the MLBPA umbrella, adding that any minor league CBA would be negotiated independently of the Major League CBA that was completed earlier this year.
“Minor league Players have made it unmistakably clear they want the MLBPA to represent them and are ready to begin collective bargaining in order to positively affect the upcoming season,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement released Tuesday morning.
Drellich’s piece contains quotes from several minor league players on the matter and notes that there would still be some hurdles regarding the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, as the league is not based in the United States. Still, Drellich emphasizes that the players union has told minor leaguers that it plans to attempt to bargain over the working conditions of DSL players as well.
The move to add the majority of minor league players to the MLBPA ranks would see union membership skyrocket from 1,200 — the 40 players on the 40-man rosters of all 30 MLB teams — to more than 5,000. The MLBPA has already bulked up its staff in preparation for the move, announcing last week that it had hired every employee from Advocates for Minor Leaguers as a new full-time employee of the MLBPA.
Currently, neither the salaries nor benefits of minor league players are collectively bargained. Minor league players are only paid during the season, and their minimum salaries range from $400 per week in the lower levels — where seasons are only three months long — to $700 per week in Triple-A (via the Associated Press).