The Major League Baseball Players Association joined the AFL-CIO on Wednesday, strengthening its ties to the larger labor movement as it strives to significantly expand its membership by uniting minor league players.
MLBPA Director Tony Clark announced the partnership during a National Press Club Q&A in Washington on Wednesday morning with AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. The MLBPA will join unions representing soccer and men’s and women’s soccer players on the AFL-CIO’s Sports Council, which has 58 unions in its federation.
The swift efforts to unite continued Tuesday when the union asked MLB to voluntarily recognize the MLBPA as the negotiating agent for minor league players after more than half returned union authorization cards. If MLB does not voluntarily recognize, players can petition the National Labor Relations Board and be recognized if more than 50% of players who vote in an election choose to join a union.
“By strengthening our player fraternity by bringing the minor leaguers under our umbrella and by joining the AFL-CIO – together we are going to navigate that chaos,” Clark said. “Together we will work through it in a way that will be a further reminder of the strength and unity and value associated with focus and purpose – something the labor movement has always been committed to.”
The MLBPA, Clark said, has been “encouraged, at least initially, with some of the dialogue we’ve had” with MLB. The formal union effort started 11 days ago with the distribution of the union authorization cards, but the “engagement” [with players] was done over several years,” Clark said.
“The minor league players are the backbone of our industry,” Clark said. “It’s important that they have a voice at the table. It’s important that they have the opportunity to voice their concerns about fair pay and working conditions.”
The focus on the treatment of minor league players has grown in recent years, with players becoming more vocal about their annual salary below the poverty line, among other things.
When asked how players — nearly all of whom are paid between $400 and $700 a week in pre-tax during the season — would pay union dues, Clark said: “As minimal as it will be, if at all, is a reflection to be of the interest of the players.”
Currently, the MLBPA consists of the 1,200 players on the 40-man rosters of major league teams. Expanding its ranking to include all members of organizations that play domestically, the group could add more than 5,000 players.
“It wasn’t about selling it to them,” Clark said. “There was just an acknowledgment of the challenges they experienced. And the cure is organizing.”
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