DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — Union head Tony Clark lauded the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday for giving minor league players a 50 percent raise, and he hopes other clubs do the same.
Representatives from the players’ association visited the Blue Jays spring training camp a day after The Athletic reported the team planned to boost pay for all minor leaguers, some making as little as $1,100 a month during the five-month season. By comparison, the major league minimum is $555,000 per year, and the top players make over $30 million annually.
Minor league salaries are paid by major league teams only during the season, so players do not get compensated during spring training or the offseason. 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 disrupted last year when congress passed the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” which stripped minor leaguers of the protection of federal minimum wage laws.
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 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 part of the major league players’ association, nor are they unionized themselves.
Blue Jays vice president of baseball operations Ben Cherington told The Athletic that Toronto hoped players would use the extra money to find better housing and food. It’s not uncommon for minor leaguers to cram up to eight players into two-bedroom apartments, sleeping on air mattresses to stretch meager salaries.