How the most powerful union in professional sports became stronger – Mother Jones

Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players AssociationRichard Drew, File / AP

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The life of a major league baseball The player involves bright lights, celebrities, a minimum salary of $ 700,000 per year, and representation in a powerful union. Meanwhile, the minor leagues, hoping to make it to the majors one day, work in obscurity and, often, in poverty, without the protections of a collective bargaining unit.

But this is finally about to change.

The minor leagues unionized last week. The MLB had previously announced that it would voluntarily recognize a union if a majority of the minor league players approved, allowing them to forgo the lengthy election process of the National Labor Relations Board. After a 17-day union campaign, “a significant majority” of the 5,567 minor league players signed their union clearance papers, according to the union.

The American pastime isn’t always compatible with the American dream, and the low average pay of $ 12,000 a year has forced many players to end their baseball careers before making it to the majors. “It’s really a shame, because who hits this kind of difficulty the most?” my friend Bobby Wagner, co-host of the folding pitches baseball podcast and longtime advocate of child unionization, he told me. “It’s the people who are the least privileged, who can’t afford to wait five or six years for a payday, who didn’t earn a big signing bonus when they were drafted, who didn’t come from their family’s money. “

Players often take long bus journeys without compensation, receive inadequate meals and, until recently, have faced enormous logistical hurdles to find accommodation. Now able to engage in collective bargaining, players may be able to gain ground in those areas.

The addition of more than 5,500 minor leagues to the existing 1,200 major league union members will significantly strengthen the bargaining unity. At a time of growing public support for unions, its expansion is also good publicity for MLB owners and executives who in 2020 gutted minors by eliminating 40 farm teams, earning them the designation of “insufferable ghouls” from my colleague Tim. Murphy.

“This historic achievement required the right group of players at the right time to be successful,” said Tony Clark, the union’s executive director. “The minor leaguers have bravely seized this moment and we look forward to improving their terms and conditions of work through the collective bargaining process in good faith.”

The timing of the negotiations is not yet clear, but a spokesperson for the Major League Baseball Players Association said the union would like to have a deal in place by the start of next season.