Senators ask MLB if Florida law undermines CBA with minor league players

Three United States senators sent a letter Tuesday to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred asking whether a new Florida law undermines the league’s collective bargaining agreement with minor league players and could “put at risk the gains made by minor league players to finally earn a living wage.”

The letter, signed by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) and obtained by ESPN, questioned why MLB lobbied Florida lawmakers for a broad exemption to the state’s minimum wage laws while negotiating the historic CBA that was ratified in April and drastically increased player pay.

In June, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law S.B. 892, which exempts minor league players from minimum wage and maximum hour laws.

Previously MLB had lobbied officials to pass laws that cut minor league players out of federal minimum wage requirements. While those efforts failed, lawmakers included the language — known as the Save America’s Pastime Act — in a 2018 spending bill. At the time, MLB was defending itself against a class-action lawsuit by players that the league had violated wage-and-hour laws. MLB paid $185 million to settle the case in July 2022.

The Florida Senate introduced the bill in mid-February, five months after MLB voluntarily recognized the new minor league unit of the MLB Players Association and in the middle of discussions between the league and union on the framework of the CBA. A league spokesman said the Florida law will not affect current players.

Despite the passage of the Florida law, players on dozens of teams across Florida continued to receive salaries in line with the minimums outlined in the CBA throughout the 2023 season, sources said. The new minor league salaries — $35,800 for players in Triple-A, $30,250 in Double-A, $27,300 in High-A, $26,200 in Low-A and $19,800 in the Florida and Arizona Complex Leagues — more than doubled the wages of players.

Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip who amid players’ unionization efforts last year sent a letter to Manfred questioning the validity of the league’s antitrust exemption, has become a vocal advocate for minor league players but had not publicly addressed S.B. 892.

The letter pointed out that Arizona, California, New York, North Carolina and Washington had previously received support from MLB and the MLBPA advocating for a narrower exemption to wage-and-hour laws than the one passed by Florida.

In the letter, the senators asked whether MLB planned to send a similar letter to Florida and whether the league would support federal legislation for a more narrow exemption.

“These efforts by MLB to pass a broad exemption from state wage and hour laws in Florida,” the letter said, “appear to significantly undermine the agreement MLB entered into with the MLBPA and put at risk the gains made by minor league players to finally earn a living wage.”

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