President Donald Trump signed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill into law today, just hours after he threatened to veto it. That avoids a government shutdown and does a whole lot of other things, too, but the portion most directly relevant to professional sports is the Save America’s Pastime Act, which secures MLB’s ability to continue paying minor league baseball players extremely low wages:
This is something that MLB has been after for years—the Save America’s Pastime Act first emerged as an independent piece of legislation back in 2016, before being pushed into this spending bill at the last minute—and now, they finally have it. (It’s unclear exactly which legislators were responsible for its inclusion here, but the Washington Post reported that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was among the big pushers, with fellow congressional leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) all “willing to entertain” it.) MLB has tried to argue before that minor-league players are exempt from federal labor standards because they’re only “seasonal apprentices,” and now the players are officially legally exempt in their own right, without baseball needing to rely on that flimsy excuse.
Players in the minors are paid by their parent clubs, rather than the individual minor-league teams, and they typically make very little, with a minimum of $1,100 per month that’s limited to in-season play, with nothing for spring training. Even as they make their way up through the ranks of organized ball, they still don’t have an opportunity to make very much, and their wages haven’t increased nearly enough over the years to keep up with inflation, as major-league salaries have. Players often struggle to make ends meet, rooming with people who volunteer their spare bedrooms in minor-league towns and having difficulty putting food on the table outside the paltry spreads that they get on gamedays. Here’s a glimpse of what that looks like.
From Matt Taylor, who was in the Orioles’ organization from 2011 to 2015:
Tyler Badamo, who’s played in the Mets’ and Diamondbacks’ systems since 2014:
The joy of getting a little spending money meant to last a full week:
Yes, that’s $14 for seven days.
Slade Heathcott, who saw some big-league action in 2015 and is currently in the Athletics’ organization, weighed in, quoting reporter Taylor Blake Ward:
An example of one of the heartier spreads you might see, for a big day—mashed potatoes in bubblegum containers:
Minor-league players are already, in many cases, barely scraping by. And most, of course, will never make the majors. This provision just gives baseball an additional layer of legal security in fucking them over.