SportsPulse: Mackenzie Salmon spoke with former NBPA executive director Charles Grantham about the possible obstacles that the MLB and its players may face when trying to return to action.
The new federal law designed to help unemployed workers survive during the coronavirus pandemic could end up being a financial lifeline for minor league baseball players.
Smaller binders, many of whom receive remuneration below the federal minimum wage, may soon find their only source of cut income – as long as they remain under contract with the parent club.
However, the Federal Coronavirus Relief Act, known as the CARES Act, can allow these players to receive substantially greater benefits than they are currently being paid.
In early April, all MLB teams pledged to pay their minor league players $ 400 a week by the end of May. In addition, it would be up to each individual team how it wants to proceed.
On Tuesday, Oakland A & # 39; s revealed that they will not continue with these payments later in the month. The Chicago White Sox said it would pay minors by the end of June. The San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins have promised payments by the end of August. Other teams are expected to announce their intentions in the coming days.
Oakland Athletics pitchers undergo spring 2019 training exercises at the team's minor league complex in Mesa, Arizona (Photo: Rick Scuteri, USA TODAY Sports)
The average minor leaguer is paid based on the level of competition. In 2020, class A players were scheduled to earn $ 290 / week, class AA $ 350 / week and class AAA $ 502 / week. This amounts to about $ 4,800 for three-month short-season leagues, to about $ 14,000 for five months in Class AAA.
Why are they paid so little? Minor leagues are not considered employees of their parent clubs, but "seasonal apprentices" according to the provisions of the "Save America & # 39; s Pastime Act", included in the massive federal tax cut law of 2018.
Under these provisions, they would not normally be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, former President of the National Labor Relations Council William B. Gould IV says his situation has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"It is clear that independent contractors, as well as so-called 'show workers', have the right to receive pandemic unemployment compensation," Gould told USA TODAY Sports, comparing his situation with that of service drivers. of Uber and Lyft travel sharing.
This would mean that not only would these players be eligible for unemployment when the parent's club stopped paying them, but they would also be entitled to the additional $ 600 per week that Congress authorized until July 31.
As smaller leagues are classified as hired and not team officials, as major league players or front team officials are “(MLB) does not look like the game they normally have, because the public will be choosing,” says Gould, who he is now professor emeritus at Stanford University.
In the case of A players, cutting team payments sooner or later can be of benefit to them – since unemployment payments, plus the extra $ 600 per week, would be much more than the current income. (In the meantime, Marlins and Padres players would not be able to claim unemployment until their payments end in August – when the extra $ 600 will not be available.)
The only problem may involve where and how players apply for these benefits.
Unemployment claims are processed and paid for by the states. It is not yet known whether the players would enter the home state of the parent club or the home of the minor league club.
If they are hired, the CARES Act has given states the authority to expand their eligibility for unemployment. They haven't done a check yet, but they probably fall sadly on political lines; therefore, depending on the state in which they play, they may be eligible. https://t.co/QGTP8faj3Ppic.twitter.com/BATYHvPXeT
– Christian Freymeyer (@cfreymeyer) May 27, 2020
It all depends on "where jurisdiction is obtained," says Gould, with the proviso that "if there is jurisdiction where spring training locations are, you can have (much more) conservative determinations of unemployment eligibility."
A general manager David Forst informed the team’s prospects on Tuesday that although his payments are interrupted, the universal minor league player contract (UPC) “remains in effect for the duration of his suspension,” which means that they are still considered to be under the control of the team while they are not working.
Here is the email David Forst sent to players today: https://t.co/rwHqiAeKlapic.twitter.com/rEZK2RC1eZ
– Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) May 27, 2020
According ESPN's Jeff Passan, paying each A minor binder in June, July and August would cost $ 5,200 per player. With about 200 players in the system, it would total about $ 1.04 million.
Forbes estimates the net worth of A's principal owner, John Fisher, to be approximately $ 2.1 billion.
Meanwhile, smaller leagues may have to accept a temporary boost from Uncle Sam while waiting for the call to return.
"All antitrust lawsuits have failed to free minor league players from these restrictions," says Gould. "They have nowhere else to go."
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