MLB Recognizes Voluntary Membership of Minor League Players with MLBPA

Major League Baseball will voluntarily recognize the efforts of minor league players to join the MLB Players Association, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Friday.

MLB’s move would formally accept the MLBPA as the negotiating representative of minor league players. The union and MLB are also working on an agreement that will make up the negotiating unit and hope to reach that next week.

The MLBPA launched the union action on Aug. 28, telling MLB on Tuesday that it had obtained signed authorization cards from 5,000 to 6,500 players on minor league contracts. If MLB had refused to accept the union, the players association’s next step would have been to ask the National Labor Relations Board to hold an enabling election.

“I believe we notified the MLBPA today that we are willing to implement a voluntary recognition agreement,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said at a news conference to announce the changes to the on-field rules for next season. “I think they’re working on the language again as we speak.”

Players on 40-man rosters who have an option for the minor leagues have been represented by the union since 1981. However, the vast majority of minor leaguers have not previously been represented by the union, which plans to form a separate bargaining unit with its own dues and governance structure, such as player representatives and a board of directors.

MLB increased the weekly minimum salary for minor leaguers in 2021 to $400 at the rookie and short-season levels, $500 at Class A, $600 at Double-A and $700 at Triple-A. For players on option, the minimum is $57,200 per season for a first big league contract and $114,100 for subsequent big league contracts. In addition, this year, MLB began requiring teams to provide housing for most minor leaguers.

MLB and union negotiators have had a bitter relationship in recent years, leading to several grievances that are still pending. Manfred and union leader Tony Clark held separate press conferences to announce the agreement that ended the lockout in March, and union officials did not attend the MLB press conference Friday to announce the approval of a pitch clock and defensive service restrictions.

The five-year contract expires on December 1, 2026, and MLB can request a concurrent expiration of a minor league deal. The greatest leverage from the minor leaguers may come before opening day, March 31 at Triple-A and April 6 at lower tiers, when a strike could result in each team keeping its dozen or so affiliated players on option at training complexes playing makeshift games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.