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Three former minor leaguers file a class action suit against Major League Baseball over unfair labor practices

Feb 11, 2014, 4:20 PM EST

lawsuit gavel

From the “I’m surprised it has taken this long” department, three former minor leaguers — Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto and Oliver Odle — have filed a putative class action lawsuit against Major League Baseball alleging that minor leaguers are underpaid and exploited and that the Uniform Player Contract unfairly takes advantage of them.

The upshot: excluding bonuses which only a few minor leaguers get in any real size, Major League Baseball often pays minor leaguers less than $7,500 for an entire season and requires mandatory overtime in violation of state and federal wage laws. The Uniform Player Contract they are required to sign binds them to a team and keeps them from shopping their services elsewhere. Though they are only paid during the season, they are required to perform duties such as training, meetings and the like all year long and their duties and obligations to the club extend on a year-round basis too.

I’m not labor law expert but it strikes me that there are things to talk about here. And that they system in place is less explicitly blessed by the legally system than it is merely accepted and, as far as I know, never challenged on grounds of unfair labor practices.  More general things like the draft, however, are most likely subject to the antitrust exemption.

One thing I’d be very curious to see: the minor leaguers sue the MLBPA too. For, even though they are not allowed to be members of the MLBPA nor have a seat at the bargaining table when player rights are defined, they are subject to them. Indeed, major leaguers have routinely negotiated away the rights of amateurs and minor leaguers in exchange for things that benefit them. It’s a messed up system, frankly.

It’ll be a long time before this goes anyplace. The first thing that has to happen is the certification of a class. That doesn’t always happen. And if it doesn’t, it would be let as a lawsuit by only three plaintiffs as opposed to minor leaguer in general.

Worth watching, though.

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