The bipartisan “Save America’s Pastime Act,” introduced over the summer, is some simmering, unconscionable bullshit that doesn’t even try all that hard to hide its Disney villain-esque desire to portray the fate of Baseball At Large as antithetical to paying its employees a living wage. What it actually aims to do is insert a specific exemption into the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that would exclude minor leaguers from minimum wage and overtime laws. This would be really great and profitable for the MLB owners who pay farm system salaries, but not so great for the guys who actually play in the minors for as little as $1,100 a month, paid only during the season.
The bill, which is based on the assumption that teams can’t afford to continue existing if they pay their players fairly, is in response to the still-pending 2014 lawsuit, Senne v. MLB, that accuses MLB of violating FLSA standards. In order to defend itself, MLB needs to retain its federal antitrust status—which hinges on its classification as recreation and not as a business—or else succeed in passing this end-around of labor law.
The proposal is so absurd (and patently counter to its own name) that one of the two lawmakers behind the bill, Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, almost immediately withdrew her support and issued a statement that, “I believe that Major League Baseball can and should pay young, passionate minor league players a fair wage for the work they do.”
So how does Commissioner Rob Manfred feel about all of this? Toronto Star Blue Jays beat writer Brendan Kennedy asked him about MLB’s endorsement of the “Save America’s Pastime Act” yesterday and here’s what Manfred had to say:
Manfred initially cites the defensible position that an hourly wage structure doesn’t make much sense for athletes. But, despite saying “We’re not opposed to paying minor-league players any particular wage,” he remains evasively noncommittal on the question of pulling those wages up over the poverty line.
“For us it’s really not about the money so much as the burden that would be imposed,” said the spokesperson for the billionaires who would be fine with paying their employees a living wage if it weren’t such a hassle.