A legal battle spanning years over minor league player pay has ended with a nine-figure payout by Major League Baseball.
The league will pay $185 million to settle a federal class-action lawsuit filed by minor leaguers alleging minimum wage and overtime violations by teams, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. A judge's approval is still required.
BREAKING: Major League Baseball will pay $185 million to settle the federal class-action lawsuit filed by minor league players who sought pay for minimum-wage and overtime violations by teams, pending a judge approving the settlement, according to a document filed in court today.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 15, 2022
The settlement was originally agreed upon in May and filed on Friday.
Teams were previously blocked by the league from compensating players while they took part in spring training and instructional leagues. Teams still aren't required to pay players for such time on the job, they're just allowed to now.
Minor leaguers have long complained about only being paid during the regular season, despite being required to take part in spring training and work out during the offseason if they want any chance at making the big leagues.
BREAKING: MLB agrees to $185 million settlement in class-action lawsuit minor leaguers brought called "Senne." In addition, MLB "will rescind any contractual prohibitions against the MLB Clubs paying minor league players wages" outside of regular season, per court filing.
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) July 15, 2022
Passan reports the number of players eligible to receive money from the settlement is unclear, thousands of players are eligible going back to those who played in Florida complexes in 2009, the California League in 2010 and Arizona complexes in 2011. Per Drellich, 20,000 minor league players are expected to receive a check.
The players will reportedly receive more than $120 million out of the $185 million. That would work out to roughly $6,000 per player.
Advocates For Minor Leaguers, an advocacy group, hailed the settlement as a landmark victory and an admission that MLB's owners have long received free labor from players in a statement shortly after the news broke:
"For decades, Major League Baseball's thirty team owners have openly conspired to underpay Minor League baseball players. Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the Minor League Conspiracy—which is currently being investigated by Congress—is that players are required to provide between 6 and 9 months of free labor each year. Today's settlement announcement is an acknowledgment of, and an important first step toward remedying, that injustice.
"Every MLB organization will soon have the option to pay Minor Leaguers outside the "championship playing season." Advocates for Minor Leaguers will hold accountable each and every Major League organization that fails to adjust its compensation of Minor Leaguers accordingly.
"Ultimately, we will not be satisfied until Minor Leaguers have a seat at the table to negotiate fair wages and working conditions, as is the norm across professional sports."
Minor league pay has been a problem for decades, but the issue has seen much more focus in recent years as minor leagues become increasingly upfront with the financial realities of their profession.
Even after a restructuring of the minor leagues that cut out dozens of teams and increased salaries for players, minimum weekly pay was still only $400 at the lowest levels and $700 at Triple-A. Keep in mind that was only for, at most, half the year. Some players had multi-million signing bonuses to keep them afloat, but most did not, often causing them to need second jobs or family support to stay in the game.
Some back pay and the change in when teams are allowed to pay minor leaguers is a good step, but there is obviously still plenty for MLB to do in this area.