Minor leaguers submit authorization card to allow MLBPA as CBA representative – ESPN

Minor leaguers submit authorization card to allow MLBPA as CBA representative - ESPN

Minor leaguers have been sent an authorization card from the MLBPA to allow the player’s union to act as their collective bargaining representative, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark confirmed Sunday night.

The move marks a monumental step for minor leaguers who have been unable to collectively bargain over things such as their pay, housing and name, image and likeness.

Clark said that player’s union is moving forward because they have heard from enough minor leaguers about the desire for union representation.

“Over the last few weeks and really over the last couple of years there’s been an outpouring of players offering their voices and their concerns with Advocates for Minor Leaguers who continue to echo and bring those voices together in a way that has gotten us to this point,” Clark told ESPN.

In order for the MLBPA to represent minor league players and trigger an election, 30% or more of players will have to vote that they want union representation. If more than 50% of minor league players then vote for union representation, the National Labor Relations Board will require Major League Baseball to recognize the union. MLB and the MLBPA would then need to collectively bargain for minor leaguers.

According to Clark, the MLBPA moved forward with that vote to potentially represent the minor leagues after it was authorized by the player’s union leadership. According to multiple league sources, every minor league team across America has player representatives who distribute the voting cards to teammates to organize the vote. This logistical coordination was organized by Advocates for Minor Leaguers, which has four player outreach coordinators regularly speaking with minor leaguers.

On Sunday, those working for Advocates for Minor Leaguers resigned their positions with the nonprofit and became employees of the MLBPA to help organize their efforts to collectively bargain for minor leaguers.

Advocates for Minor Leaguers Executive Director Harry Marino — who played in the minor leagues for the Diamondbacks and Orioles farm system — joined Advocates for Minor Leaguers in 2020 and initially projected a multi-year timeline to organize the minor leagues. The effort accelerated during the 2021 and 2022 seasons as more and more minor league players expressed interest in union representation.

The public pressure created in part by Advocates for Minor Leaguers contributed to Major League Baseball creating a universal housing policy, guaranteeing housing for minor leaguers and teams providing back pay for spring training. Advocates for Minor Leaguers organized a petition in late April signed by more than 1,000 minor league players asking Major League Baseball teams to provide players with payment for spring training, with the petition described as a step toward unionization.

“The time is now because major league and minor league players are letting us know that the time is now,” Marino told ESPN. “It’s this group of players at the minor league level that has been pushing this for the past two seasons and the major leaguers have noticed and finally decided to take this step.”

The MLBPA and Advocates would not confirm a timeline or deadline on the voting process.

There was growing optimism during the 2022 season among minor leaguers about the possibility of union representation. Minor leaguers who spoke to ESPN said the conversations about union representation have changed dramatically from 2021 to 2022, with more players speaking openly about their living conditions both privately and publicly.

Marino said major leaguers voicing their support for minor leaguers in union representation played a huge role in being able to move forward.

“Major League players have tremendous power within this game,” Marino said. “And knowing that major leaguers have their back is really what makes all the difference for the minor league guys.”

Clark expressed confidence in the vote passing for the MLBPA to represent minor leaguers because of the feedback he received from players.

“Listening to the players and the concerns they’ve expressed in their interest in creating a formal seat at the bargaining 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 throughout the United States. While both acknowledged that Major League Baseball could continue to consolidate the minor leagues, as Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the pair believe minor league players will be better off in the long run.

“The game of baseball will be better for everyone,” Marino said, “when minor leaguers have a seat at the table.”

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