The "Save America’s Pastime Act"
MLB’s Dirty Secret
H.R. 5580: Save America’s Pastime Act (2016 114th Congress)
In June 2016, two members of the United States House of Representatives, Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL) submitted a change to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
This proposed law exempts Major League Baseball Owners from having to pay Minor League contracted players minimum wage, overtime for work over 40 hours per week, and not place a cap on the maximum number of hours each player would work per week.
If you are shocked by this, you are not alone. The bill was submitted to a House of Representative Subcommittee on 06/19/2016. On 06/24/2016 the bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and Work Force. Later that same day the bill was introduced to the full House2.
On 6/30/2016, Representative Bustos after receiving Twitter and Facebook blowback from constituents, pulled her Co-Sponsorship of the bill4. According to Congressional records the bill did not go any further. Keep this in the back of your mind for now.
Garrett Broshuis was a University of Missouri baseball pitcher. In the 2004 June Amateur Baseball Draft he was selected in the 5th Round by the San Francisco Giants5. He played six seasons in the Minor Leagues, all for affiliates of the San Francisco Giants5. During his sixth season he spent most of the time while travelling to games studying for the LSAT exams1. He is obviously planning to become a lawyer.
In 2011-2012 he studied law at the St. Louis University School of Law. He graduated as a valedictorian of his class6. After passing the bar and becoming a lawyer he broke one of the first tenets of the law profession. "A lawyer who represents himself, has a fool for a client." That may be true, in this case it was his only recourse.
His first case was filing a Class Action Law Suit against MLB for inadequate pay for Minor League Baseball Players. At the time of the law suit, he was the only member of the Class Action. As of the 07/24/2018 airing of "Playing for Peanuts" on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel1 there were over 2000 members of the Class Action.
Garrett is taking on the MLB Owners essentially by himself.
Playing for Peanuts1
In 2017 MLB took in more than $10 billion for the first time. Since 1984 MLB Player salaries have increased five times. The owner’s investment has gone up 20 times since 1984. Bottom line is there is a lot of money in MLB.
Garrett Broshuis’ lawsuit is not asking for the moon. All they are asking for is to get paid minimum wage and overtime pay for hours worked over 40. To me that seems more than reasonable. Especially if it is considered that Minor League players are not paid in the off season, not paid for any preparatory workout time in the offseason, and not paid for Spring Training.
MLB was not ignoring the lawsuit by any means. Prior to 2016, MLB lobbying efforts, in terms of monetary spending was less than $340,000/year. In 2016, the year HR 5580 was submitted in the House, lobbying efforts increased to just below $1,400,000/year and was similar in 2017. MLB was stacking the deck. Not only did MLB increase the lobbying efforts, they also began contributing to Campaigns for Representatives, Senators, and Super PACs (Political Action Committees).
MLB’s argument against paying minor league players is that it puts undue burden on the Minor League Team organizations by requiring minimum wage and overtime pay. What MLB has conveniently left out is, the Major League organization pays the wages to the Minor League players, not the Minor League Team organization. I hope you remember I said MLB made more that $10 billion last year.
The bottom line is that Minor League Baseball Players play 6-7 days a week. Get to the ballpark between 11:00 AM- 1:00 PM and don’t leave until 11:00 PM. Working 60-84 hours per week, no minimum wage, no overtime. Many of these players who are not top round draft picks, do not get signing bonuses. These players also typically make less than $7500/year which is below poverty level.
A final note. The only Minor League ballplayers making MLB money are the players on the 40-man roster. I am not sure if a Minor League player on the 40-man roster that is injured and placed on the Disabled List would continue to get MLB money once removed from the 40-man roster.
Swimming Against the Tide
Minor league baseball players have another issue. Their chances of making the MLB club are, at best, 10%.
Each year in the June Amateur Baseball Draft ~1200 players are chosen. There are 30 teams in MLB which means 40 new players joining every team, each year. That does not include the International Draft, Free Agent signings, or trades. Most of these players will never make "The Show". Grant Brisbee of SB Nation provided information in an easy to understand format7.
This is an idea of what kind of current a young man drafted by an MLB team is swimming against. Imagine a pyramid scheme with four levels, each level down becoming increasing larger in size where:
1) The players at the top used the system to become millionaires.
2) The players below the top used the system to make brief major league appearances and get several thousands of dollars
3) The players in the next lower level used the system to make a living wage while on the 40-man roster.
4) The players in the lowest level were used by the system exchanging thousands of hours of cheap labor and opportunity cost for a promise of big riches that were almost certainly never going to happen.
Level 4 is the fate of most Minor League Baseball Players.
There are two specific types of players drafted in the June Amateur Draft. 1) Those players drafted right out of High School and 2) Those players drafted after a period playing College Baseball or after completing their Senior season of College Baseball. I would say the later group has a better chance of making it in life after the dream is over. Garrett Broshuis is the example.
Graduated college, six seasons in the Minor leagues. If he was 20 when drafted in 2004, completing Law School in 2012 he would be 28 and a lawyer. A good shot at a good life after that and in my opinion, he is getting that. Even if he can be compared to Don Quixote.
I’m sure the protocols vary from team to team. I believe, a MLB organization who sees a player that is no longer progressing or is digressing would be let go by the organization at the end of that season. What if that player was a kid at 19 just after graduating from High School. Let’s assume that player was let go after ten seasons.
This kid did nothing but focus on baseball from the time he could pick up a glove. He gets drafted by a MLB team. The dream is alive. He has a full-ride scholarship offer to a University, foregoes that offer to chase the thing he always wanted. After ten years in the Minor Leagues, 29 years old, no skills other than baseball, and no money. It’s a bleak picture. Like the largest section pyramid scheme delineated above. Used by the system for thousands of hours of cheap labor with literally no chance of making it.
Remember when I told you to keep H.R. 5580 in the back of your mind. Here’s why!
H.R. 1625 Omnibus Appropriations Act (2017-2018 115th Congress)
I follow Politics as well as Major League Baseball. In the "Playing for Peanuts" reporting there is a scene where floor arguments are in progress for H.R. 1625. The Representative at the lectern was arguing that the 2232-page bill was not provided in timely enough fashion for any Representative to have read all 2232 pages. He stated, "No one knows what is in this bill!" The bill was voted on and it passed. Why do I bring this up?
On page 1625 of the Omnibus Appropriations bill is the Save America’s Pastime Act. The Save America’s Pastime Act is now Federal Law. Garrett Broshuis’ law suit will be dismissed if it hasn’t been already.
The only course of action, which he stated in "Playing for Peanuts", is to try to resubmit the law suit at the State Level. Because the Minor League Network is so spread out, I’m certain this suit would need to be brought in all 50 states. It would need to be won in all 50 states. MLB owners would move all their affiliations to states that upheld H.R. 5580 to continue paying Minor League baseball players at poverty level wages.
In conclusion, simply voicing my own opinion. I was brought up to know what is right and what is wrong. One of the largest issues we see in the Big 4 sports (Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey) is the explosion of money in those sports. I’m sure "Average Joe" is getting tired of bitchy millionaires gripping about greedy billionaires.
Baseball is much different from the other three sports (Hockey, I know you have a minor league too). Baseball has multiple levels of minor league organizations. It’s generally considered the Baseball draft is the biggest crapshoot. A number one draft pick is not guaranteed a spot on the MLB club unless he proves himself in the Minor leagues. As a Padres fan I remember the fiasco of drafting Matt Bush. I’m sure all organizations have similar issues.
That said, right is right! Although intentionally built as a "Caste System", Minor league baseball shouldn’t put that system literally into place to create a group of employees who can’t make a living wage.
1. 07/24/2018 (Original Air Date) Real Sports w/Bryant Gumbel, "Playing for Peanuts"
2. Congress.Gov: HR 5580 Save America’s Pastime Act 06/19/2016 and HR 1625 Omnibus Appropriations Act (page 1625, America’s Pastime Act) 03/23/2018
3. CBSSports.com: 03/22/2018, 03/22/2018, Congress' 'Save America's Pastime Act' would allow teams to pay minor-leaguers less than minimum wage. Mike Axisa
4. NBCSports.com: 06/30/2016, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) withdraws support for "Save America’s Pastime Act", Bill Baer
5. Garrett Broshuis, Baseball-Reference.com, Minor League Statistics
6. Garrett Broshuis, Wikipedia.org
7. SB Nation: A River of Molten Sewage, 06/30/2016, Grant Brisbee