MiLB Unionization Update

It’s basically now a done deal. This past week, over 50% of minor league players submitted preference cards indicating they wanted to unionize. Only 30% was required to force a formal vote, at which point majority would rule. That’s an obvious moot point since the majority has already spoken. The MLBPA had offered to pull these players under their umbrella and collectively bargain for them. That will now happen. If MLB, which obviously controls MiLB, resisted, the formal vote would simply take place…the MLBPA would get voted in, apply to the National Labor Relations Board, get recognized by the NLRB, and then MLB would be forced to accept it. Instead, MLB did the wise thing and recognized the MLBPA as the minor leaguers’ union.

The MLBPA this week also joined the AFL-CIO. That brings additional legal support and organizational clout to the newly 3x larger union.

I expect advances toward minor leaguers earning a living wage to happen relatively quickly. What will be interesting to see is if there will be a minor league collective bargaining agreement separate from the major league one or an overarching all of affiliated baseball agreement. Regardless, both MLB and MLBPA have to realize even negotiations at the major league level have to take into account the minor league players as they will now be members of the same union. The MLBPA can’t just give up concessions about, say the draft, to gain a benefit at the major league level and blow off the fact that affects the minor leaguers too.

This is good, and overdue, for the minor league players. Good for the MLBPA, too, for stepping up, but they have to realize their job just got more complicated. As for MLB, (1) they’ll be just fine and (2) I’ve believed ever since they announced the culling of affiliated minor league teams that it was with the expectation this would ultimately happen. Fewer teams = fewer players = able to give more pay and benefits without actually spending more money.

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