Thursday, March 26, 2015

Garrett Broshuis is not the first to try to unionize minor leagues

George Earl Toolson /
Former minor leaguer turned lawyer Garrett Broshuis is currently fighting for the unionization of Minor League Baseball; however minor leaguers have fought for better pay since as early as the 1920s.

Broshius is leading a lawsuit against Major League Baseball calling for a minor league baseball players union. Minor leaguers average substantially less than minimum wage for the amount of time they dedicate to their work. A minor league player starts with an average salary of $1,100 per month, but they put in about 60 hours of work per week, equating to a salary of less than the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Both Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball are protected under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which means minor leaguers do not have to be paid the legal minimum wage.

The Supreme Court of the United States decided that Major League Baseball was exempt from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act from the case of Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, Inc. v. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs et. al. The case was argued on April 19, 1922 and decided on May 29 of the same year. Justice Holmes delivered the opinion of the court.

“The business is giving exhibitions of baseball, which are purely state affairs.” he said “It is true that, in order to attain for these exhibitions the great popularity that they have achieved, competitions must be arranged between clubs from different cities and states. But the fact that, in order to give the exhibitions, the Leagues must induce free persons to cross state lines and must arrange and pay for their doing so is not enough to change the character of the business.”

An example of minor leaguers fighting against MLB's exemption from the Anti-Trust Act is the Boise Baseball Club of 1975. The club managed farm teams for the Oakland A’s in the Northwestern area of the United States. Boise went out of business in 1976 due to the A’s interference with sales of player development contracts. After Boise's demise from managing Oakland's farm teams, Boise took court action and blamed Major League Baseball for Oakland cutting them off. They fought to abolish MLB’s exemption from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, but the court refused to re examine the 1922 case that allowed MLB to be exempt from the act and gave no reason to why they refused this notion.

Many players have tried to fight against Major League Baseball’s unfair treatment of minor league players, perhaps most notably George Earl Toolson. Toolson was a member of the New York Yankees Triple A Farm Club Newark Bears. In 1953, Toolson sued the New York Yankees to challenge the reserve clause, which prevented Toolson from being traded and getting a chance to pitch in the the major leagues. The court decided in favor of the Yankees, which kept baseball excluded from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Although Broshuis is not the first to try and represent the minor leaguers, he may have the greatest chance to succeed. He now has 43 former minor leaguers supporting his suit and is in a strong position to complete this David versus Goliath case against Major League Baseball.

Written by: Harry Smith and Michael Stern

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