Grow: Minor League Baseball to seek Congressional protection from the minimum wage

From SABR member Nathaniel Grow at FanGraphs on December 15, 2014:

Another week, another development on the minor league salary front. Less than six days after a federal antitrust lawsuit was filed challenging the minor league salary structure, Minor League Baseball’s (MiLB) vice president, Stanley Brand, announced at the Winter Meetings on Thursday that his organization would launch a vigorous lobbying campaign in 2015, asking Congress to pass legislation protecting the industry from federal minimum wage and maximum hour laws.

Brand’s announcement comes in response to two other class action lawsuits filed earlier this year alleging that the minor league pay scale violates the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (Wendy Thurm previously discussed the first of these suits here). These cases – filed on behalf of two groups of former minor league players – contend that once all of the hours minor league players work each year are accounted for (including spring training, the regular season, and fall instructional leagues), most minor leaguers are effectively paid less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. And despite often working more than 50 hours per week, minor league players do not receive overtime.

Interestingly, like the minor league antitrust lawsuit filed a couple weeks ago – which appears to be covered by baseball’s antitrust exemption – professional baseball is arguably already exempt from the FLSA as well under an exception covering “seasonal amusement and recreational establishments” (29 U.S.C. 213(a)(3)). Under the exception, any amusement-related business (theme parks, carnivals, circuses, and the like) that operates on a seasonal basis – basically seven months or less per year, although the law is a little more nuanced – is not required to pay its workers minimum wage or overtime.

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Originally published: December 15, 2014. Last Updated: December 15, 2014.