Sports Most Powerful Union: Just Got Stronger

Mother Jones headline: How the Most Powerful Union in Pro Sports Just Got Stronger

Sub-headline: “This historic achievement required the right group of players at the right moment to succeed.”…

The life of a major league baseball player involves bright lights, celebrity, a minimum salary of $700,000 a year, and representation in a powerful labor union. Meanwhile, minor leaguers—hoping to make it to the majors someday—toil in obscurity and, often, in poverty, without the protections of a collective bargaining unit.

But that’s finally about to change.

The minor leagues unionized last week. MLB had announced earlier that it would voluntarily recognize a union if a majority of minor league players approved, allowing them to forgo the lengthy process of a National Labor Relations Board election. After a 17-day union drive, “a significant majority” of the 5,567 minor league players signed their union authorization cards, according to the union.

America’s pastime isn’t always compatible with the American dream, and the low average pay of $12,000 a year has forced many players to end their baseball careers before they make it to the majors. “That’s really unfortunate, because who does that kind of hardship affect the most?” my friend Bobby Wagner, a co-host of the Tipping Pitches baseball podcast and a longtime advocate for unionizing the minors, told me. “It’s the people who are the least privileged, who can’t afford to wait five or six years for a payday, who didn’t make a big signing bonus when they got drafted, who don’t come from money in their family.”