By: Heather Udowitch


For over 100 years, Minor League Baseball (“MiLB”) operated without a formal union.[1]  However, everything changed on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 when the Major League Baseball Players Association (“MLBPA”) voluntarily decided to represent MiLB players.[2]  For the first time in history, MiLB will have union representation.[3]

The genesis of this unionization began on June 24, 2016 when Congress introduced the Save America’s Pastime Act, which exempted MiLB players from minimum wage and maximum hour requirements.[4]  In 2018, Congress enacted the act,[5]  enraging minor league players, already unsatisfied with their treatment.[6]  Under the previous financial structure, “the vast majority of minor league players ma[d]e less than $12,000—below the federal poverty line.”[7]  Further, to make ends meet, many players maintain additional jobs.[8]  Due to this frustration, advocacy groups formed hoping for improved minor league player treatment.[9]  These groups utilized social media platforms to highlight minor league living standards.[10]  The groups grew, and MLBPA answered by pledging $1 million to the groups.  Similarly, Major League Baseball (“MLB”) responded by providing lodging for all players.[11] 

Moreover, earlier this year, MLB settled Senne v. MLB.[12]  In that case, former Miami Marlins minor league player, Aaron Senne, alongside two other retired minor league players, filed a class-action lawsuit seeking payment for minimum-wage and overtime violations by various teams.[13]  The parties settled for $120,197,300, which will benefit thousands of players.[14]  Additionally, as part of the settlement, teams are allowed to pay minor league players throughout spring training.[15]  This settlement, together with the advocacy groups’ efforts, demonstrated the power of collective action, and leaders amongst the minor league players emerged.[16] 

With this newfound confidence, minor league players reacted promptly after receiving union-authorization cards from the MLBPA.[17]  Most of the 5,500 minor league players returned the cards, designating the MLBPA as their bargaining representative.[18]  After this majority response, MLB had two choices: either force players to vote through the National Labor Relations Board or voluntarily recognize the union.[19]  Either way, the unionization of minor league players was inevitable.[20]  Accordingly, MLB chose the ladder.[21] 

The scope and size of the minor league union has yet to be determined.[22]  Nonetheless, the MLBPA intends to designate a separate bargaining unit for minor league players with its own player representatives and executive board.[23]  Moreover, for this upcoming season, the group will have its first-ever collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”).[24]  The goal is to finalize a CBA by the start of spring training, with players’ salaries being the top priority.[25]  Additional conditions such as training facilities, meals, and travel conditions may also be included in the upcoming CBA.[26]  Although many spectators are optimistic about the future, some players and player-development executives fear the union will result in fewer minor league teams or roster spots.[27]  Regardless of this skepticism, this monumental time in baseball was unimaginable for years.[28]  Therefore, although the future is uncertain, at least minor league players will have formal representation.

[1] James Wagner, M.L.B. Will Voluntarily Recognize Minor League Union, N.Y. Times (Sept. 9, 2022), https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/09/sports/baseball/minor-league-union.html.

[2] Mark Feinsand, Minor League Players Recognized as Part of MLBPA, MLB.com (Sept. 14, 2022), https://www.mlb.com/news/minor-leaguers-join-mlb-players-union#:~:text=Based%20on%20the%20authorization%20cards,League%20players%20and%20our%20fans.%E2%80%9D

[3] Wagner, supra note 1.

[4] Minor Leaguers Are Joining The MLBPA: Here’s What The Unionization Means, ESPN(Sept. 14, 2022), https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34586802/minor-leaguers-joining-mlbpa-here-unionization-means [hereinafter Minor Leaguers Join the MLPA]; H.R. 5580, 114th Cong. (2016).

[5] Id. at 3.

[6] Minor Leaguers Join the MLPA, supra note 4.

[7] Wagner, supra note 1.

[8] Id.

[9] Minor Leaguers Join the MLPA, supra note 4.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Jess Passan, MLB to Pay $185 Million In Settlement With Minor League Players Over Minimum-Wage and Overtime Allegations, ESPN (July 15, 2022), https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34249632/mlb-pay-185-million-settlement-minor-league-players-minimum-wage-allegations.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Minor Leaguers Join the MLPA, supra note 4.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Wagner, supra note 1.

[23] Feinsand, supra note 2.

[24] Minor Leaguers Join the MLPA, supra note 4.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] See id.

[28] See Wagner, supra note 1.