Minor league baseball players officially join MLBPA in ‘historic’ move

Minor league baseball players officially unionized on Wednesday, joining the Major League Baseball Players Association after an umpire validated union clearance cards and MLB recognized the MLBPA as the players’ bargaining representative.

The organizing process moved at high speed, beginning with the distribution of the cards on August 28 and culminating just two weeks later with the organization of over 5,000 players. The MLBPA, which previously only represented the 1,200 players on the 40-player rosters of major league teams, will now cover all players at each of the four affiliated tiers as well as those at the Florida and Arizona team complexes.

The parties plan to begin bargaining the first minor league collective bargaining agreement after the end of the season. Previously, MLB unilaterally ran all aspects of the minor leagues, setting salaries, working conditions and other areas that prompted players to start organizing.

While minor league players convinced MLB to provide season-long housing before the 2022 season was recorded as a momentous victory, the years-long organizational effort — and speed of training from the union – is the biggest yet for players.

“This historic achievement took the right group of players at the right time to succeed,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said. “Minor Leaguers have bravely seized this moment, and we look forward to improving their terms of employment through the good faith collective bargaining process.”

Last Friday, commissioner Rob Manfred said the league plans to voluntarily recognize the union after he said more than half of cards returned by players were in favor of the union. Referee Martin Scheinman counted the cards Wednesday and confirmed they exceeded the 50% threshold, affirming MLB’s voluntary recognition.

Unionizing minor league players, an idea long discussed but never implemented, took hold after the formation of advocacy groups in recent years prompted players to speak out about working conditions. Harry Marino, the former executive director of Advocates for Minor League Baseball who recently joined the MLBPA as assistant general counsel, said: “For decades, conventional wisdom has said that it’s impossible to unionize the minor leagues. Over the past few years, a bold and committed group of people have come together to prove it wrong. … The game of baseball and the lives of thousands of people will be better because of their efforts.”

In a statement, the league said, “Major League Baseball has a long history of negotiating in good faith with unions, including those representing major and minor league umpires and major league players. We respect the right workers to decide for themselves whether to unionize. Based on the clearance cards collected, MLB voluntarily and promptly recognized the MLBPA as the representative of minor league players. We hope that a timely collective bargaining agreement and fair will be done, which is good for the game, the minor league players and our fans.”

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