Phoenix – Major League Baseball Executive Director Tony Clark is confident that at least 30% of minor league players will recently sign the league’s accreditation cards distributed in the coming days and weeks, paving the way for thousands of other players to join the organization.
“There has been a tremendous response,” Clark told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Maybe this is not surprising.”
Cards signed by 30% of the smaller unions in the bargaining unit will allow the union to petition the National Labor Relations Board to demand the election of union approval, which will be decided by a majority vote. Minor League players will have a separate negotiation unit from their counterparts in the big leagues.
While the average major league salary is above $4 million, players with minor league contracts earn less than $400 per week during the six-month season.
Clarke said that while there has been a lot of action over the past two days, efforts to move the league’s small leagues forward have been underway for a few years. Clarke, who has played for 15 years in the major leagues, credited minor league players with “finding their voices.”
“It’s the right time,” Clark said, “because they say it’s the right time.”
“I think we are early in the process, although a lot of progress has been made in a short time,” he added. “A lot of times, these trips are just a straight line. We’ll navigate accordingly.”
The MLB estimates that there are 5,000 to 6,500 minor leagues in the United States at any one time, with the number increasing as new players sign each summer. It’s a diverse group of players that includes teenagers and others in their thirties at the higher levels.
Simon Rosenblum-Larson — who competed for four seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before being released in June — is the co-founder and program director of More Than Baseball, which has worked to improve working conditions for minor league players.
Rosenblum Larson said of the union’s campaign, “Part of me thought this would never happen. But there’s also a part of me that just doesn’t believe it didn’t happen 30 or 40 years ago.”
“I have spoken to several players in the past 48 hours and they are curious, excited and ready to move on.”
The federation already represents 1,200 players on major league contracts, which since a 1981 strike deal has negotiated terms for those who choose to join the minor leagues. Clarke stressed that if minor league players decide to form a negotiating unit, it will not take resources from the league’s major league staff.
“We’ll look at this as one big tent, if you will, with two different tables,” he said.
MLB raised the minimum weekly wage for junior leaguers in 2021 to $400 in the junior and short season levels, $500 in Class A, $600 in Double-A and $700 in Triple-A. For selected players, the minimum is $57,200 per season for the first major league contract and $114,100 for subsequent major league contracts.
In addition, this year MLB began requiring teams to provide housing for most junior racers.
If junior unionists decide to join unions, Clark said, the receivables “would be minimal at most,” acknowledging their current low compensation. The MLBPA declined to say how much it was spending on the drive. Clarke said in a previous statement that the cost was “an investment in the future of our game and fraternity with our player.”
The major league association has long refused to represent junior leagues, even though its employment contract sets out the terms of the amateur draft and signing bonuses for amateur players. There were 128 draft picks this year who agreed to sign bonuses of $500,000 and above, including 82 for at least $1 million.