by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
You never know what you’ll find inside a 2,200-page document that is now law, particularly since few of those who voted for the $1.3 trillion spending spree had even read it. But as usual with this kind of process, the details are starting to emerge. One of the provisions essentially fends off a lawsuit filed by minor league baseball players over their pay. The contention is that they deserve back pay due to the federal minimum wage law, as Reason’s Eric Boehm explains.
It’s an example of “how our government is operating right now,” Garrett Broshius, a minor league player turned attorney who is the players in their lawsuit, toldBloomberg Law. “You have billionaires lobbying on something proposed in secret and rushed into a spending bill even though it has nothing to do with spending.”
In the suit filed against Major League Baseball and its minor league affiliates, players argue that some athletes make as little as $3,000 for a season that lasts about five months. Ballplayers have been exempted from federal minimum wage laws in the past because they’ve been considered employees of an “amusement or recreational establishment.” The players were challenging that de facto arrangement (which dates back to 1922), but Congress’ action last week means the arrangement is no longer de facto and the lawsuit is likely to fail now.
I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know how the suit would have played out in court. I do believe, however, that playing minor league baseball is about trying to make it to the bigs — it’s not about making the minimum wage. Accepting a contract with a minor league baseball team is an incredible opportunity, not a curse. My criticism is really about the how this provision came to be. As Boehm points out, it’s on page 1,967 of the budget bill.
Think anybody who voted on this budget-busting plan — other than the provision’s sponsor — even made it to page 1.967?