Grow: Court dismisses minor-league wage increase

From SABR member Nathaniel Grow at FanGraphs on September 15, 2015:

Over the last couple years, the battle for higher wages for minor league baseball players has been fought on several legal fronts. The highest profile challenge has come in the form of litigation claiming that the minor league pay scale — under which minor league players often earn as little as $3,000 to $7,500 per year — violates the nation’s minimum wage laws.

At the same time, however, a separate lawsuit filed last December attacked the problem from a different legal angle. In Miranda v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, four former minor league players asserted that Major League Baseball’s minor league pay practices violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. In particular, the players argued that MLB and its thirty teams have illegally conspired to fix minor league players’ salaries at below-market rates not only by agreeing to a uniform, league-wide salary scale for minor league players, but also by artificially reducing the size of the signing bonuses that entry-level players receive under MLB’s domestic and international signing bonus pool rules.

As I noted at the time the Miranda case was filed last year, the plaintiffs in the suit faced at least one major impediment in their attempt to challenge the minor league pay practices under the Sherman Act: baseball’s antitrust exemption. Indeed, soon after the case was filed, MLB filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit in light of its antitrust immunity.

Given that precedent, it should come as little surprise that Judge Haywood Gilliam dismissed the Miranda suit on Monday, concluding that MLB was shielded from the plaintiffs’ claims by virtue of its antitrust exemption.

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Originally published: September 15, 2015. Last Updated: September 15, 2015.