MLBPA CEO Tony Clark confirmed that an authorization card has been sent from the MLBPA to allow the player’s union to act as a collective bargaining representative.
The move represented a huge step for the young wishers, who could not collectively bargain on things like payment, housing, name, photo and likeness.
Clarke said the player union is moving forward because they have heard from enough young players about a desire for union representation.
“Over the past few weeks and over the past two years, there has been a backlog of players who have given voice and their concerns as the minor league defenders continue to chant and collect those voices in a way that has brought us up to this point,” Clark told ESPN.
In order for the MLBPA to represent small federations and for elections to take place, 30% or more of players will need to vote that they want union representation. If more than 50% of small unions vote to represent a union, the National Labor Relations Board will require Major League Baseball to recognize the union. The MLB and the MLBPA would then need to collectively bargain for two minor leagues.
According to Clarke, the MLBPA went ahead with this vote to potentially represent the minor leagues after it was mandated by the player’s association leadership. According to multiple league sources, every minor league team across America has player representatives who hand out voting cards to their teammates to organize voting. This logistical coordination is organized by Advocates for Minor Leaguers, which has four Player Awareness Coordinators who speak regularly with minor leagues.
On Sunday, those who work for Advocates for Minor Leaguers quit their positions with the non-profit organizations and became employees of the MLBPA to help organize their collective bargaining efforts for the Minor Leagues.
Minor Leaguers CEO Harry Marino — who played in the minor leagues for the Diamondbacks and Orioles farm system — joined the Advocates for Minor Leaguers in 2020 and initially predicted a multi-year schedule for organizing the minor leagues. Efforts accelerated during the 2021 and 2022 seasons as more and more junior league players expressed interest in representing unions.
Public pressure created in part by minor league advocates contributed to Major League Baseball’s creation of a comprehensive housing policy, ensuring housing for junior leagues and teams offering late salaries for spring training. Defenders of the Minor Leaguers organized a petition at the end of April signed by more than 1,000 minor league players requesting that Major League Baseball teams offer players payments for spring training, with the petition describing it as a step toward forming unions.
“Now is the time because the league and minor league players have told us it’s time,” Marino told ESPN. “It’s this group of players at the minor league level that has driven this over the past two seasons and the top league players have noticed and ultimately decided to take this step.”
The MLBPA and Advocates will not confirm the timetable or deadline for the voting process.
There has been growing optimism throughout the 2022 season among smaller unions about the possibility of union representation. Young reporters who spoke to ESPN said conversations about union representation changed dramatically from 2021 to 2022, as more players spoke publicly about their living conditions both privately and publicly.
Marino said the main association that expressed its support for the junior leagues in union representation played a big role in being able to move forward.
“The MLS players have a tremendous amount of power in this game,” Marino said. “Knowing that the top two leagues have their backs is what really makes the difference for the juniors of the junior league.”
Clarke expressed confidence in passing the vote for the MLBPA to represent the two minor leagues due to the feedback he’s received from players.
“Hearing the players and the concerns they have expressed in their interest in finding an official seat at the negotiating table gives me confidence,” Clark said. “The players always give me confidence.”
Major League Baseball did not respond to a request for comment.
Both Clark and Marino said the minor league effort to vote for union representation under the MLBPA is in line with the larger trend of labor organizing across the United States. While both acknowledge that Major League Baseball can continue to boost minor leagues, Commissioner Rob Manfred has written to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the pair believe that minor leagues will be better off in the long run.
“Baseball will be better for everyone, when the minor league players are sitting at the table,” Marino said.
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