MLBPA chief praises Blue Jays for hiking minor league pay
Some players reportedly made as little as $1,100 US a month in recent seasons
Union head Tony Clark lauded the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday for giving minor league players a 50 per cent raise, and he hopes other clubs do the same.
Minor league players are not paid during spring training or the off-season. Those who don't receive lucrative signing bonuses often struggle to afford meals, rent and basic equipment like cleats and bats.
Toronto is the first club to announce such a raise.
A lawsuit filed by former minor league players alleging MLB violated minimum wage and overtime requirements was pre-empted last year when congress passed the "Save America's Pastime Act," which stripped minor leaguers of the protection of federal minimum wage laws.
Poor playing conditions
MLB has also pushed Arizona lawmakers to exempt minor league players from minimum wage laws there, a move that would affect hundreds of players who are not paid during spring training — despite working as many as 12 hours per day — and make only a few thousand dollars playing in the rookie-level Arizona League.
Clark noted conditions in the minor leagues have not changed much since he played there in the early 1990s. Despite that, the union has accomplished little at the bargaining table on behalf of minor leaguers.
I'm proud to be a Blue Jay by what we just did.— Rookie manager Charlie Montoyo on team's decision to raise salaries of its minor league players by 50 per cent
Clark said he considers minor leaguers "a part of the puzzle" for the union, but added there are challenges to that relationship. Minor league players are not a part of the major league players' association, nor are they unionized themselves.
"Although we don't represent legally the minor league group, we will continue to do the things that we can do to support them moving forward despite that," Clark said.
Players can 'focus on baseball'
First-year Blue Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo was a minor league manager for 18 seasons. He said it's "awesome" that Toronto is boosting pay.
"Hopefully that gives an idea to everybody else in baseball," he said. "That's awesome I think. I'm proud to be a Blue Jay by what we just did."
Top prospects Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio also praised the move. Both had big league fathers and received sizable signing bonuses, so the salary bump won't have much effect for them, but they're thrilled for less fortunate teammates.
"It's definitely going to help a lot of people out," Bichette said.
"It takes their mind off if they have families at home," Biggio added. "Some of them are married. It's hard to live off that especially. That puts a lot of pressure on their wives or their family back home. So that makes it a little bit easier to focus on baseball itself instead of trying to maybe skip a meal and save a little money."