Minor league baseball players are now officially part of the Major League Baseball Players Association after an arbitrator validated their union-authorization cards. The news was a mere formality on many levels, but signals a new era of labor relations for the sport going forward.
The MLBPA announced at the end of August its plan to add minor league players to the union. In a somewhat surprising move, the league voluntarily agreed to recognize the union as their bargaining unit for minor league players. While the league probably couldn’t have prevented minor league players from joining the existing union, they could have delayed the process. The decision not to was no doubt likely influenced by recent interest by the US Senate in regards to the league’s longstanding antitrust exemption.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark released the following statement following the announcement.
Statement from Executive Director Tony Clark regarding Minor League Players joining the MLBPA pic.twitter.com/RrZO9AR22p— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) September 14, 2022
The league also released its on statement in regards to minor league players now being recognized as part of the Players Association.
Statement from MLB: "Major League Baseball has a long history of bargaining in good faith with unions, including those representing minor and major league umpires, and major league players. We respect the right of workers to decide for themselves whether to unionize.” pic.twitter.com/EYVfh0CQJW— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) September 14, 2022
I’m not so sure about MLB’s claim of having a long history of negotiating in good faith, but this will no doubt set the stage for significant change down the line. The union will no doubt be looking to raise the standards for minor league players and how the league responds to that remains to be seen. We already saw minor league contraction and it wouldn’t be surprising to hear of more being on the table after this ruling. The union will no doubt fight that which will no doubt lead to even more tension between the two sides.
That is for down the road, but for now, this is a monumental accomplishment for minor league players. Good on the union for making this move and good on the league for voluntarily accepting it, even if they probably didn’t have much choice.