Minimum wage has long been a controversial topic in the current political mainstream by two well-meaning sides. The political left wants to raise the minimum wage, making it easier for workers to earn more and better raise families. Their opponents on the right however warn that while it may raise worker salaries, it would force businesses to cut jobs and restructure operations to offset added costs.
This same battle is happening across America in local town and city meetings all the way up to the federal level among candidates for office.
Now the battle is happening in Congress involving sports. Minor League Baseball is supporting legislation that would exempt the league from minimum wage and overtime protections that apply to most American workers. The Save America’s Pasttime Act is bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Brett Guthrie (R-Kentucky) and Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois).
To some, that might sound like slave labor baseball. But it’s the nature of the structure.
It certainly has become a controversial point, as the act has come in response to a class-action lawsuit filed by more than 500 baseball players, both current and retired. The claim is that these baseball players received less than minimum wage during their playing career.
In regards to getting paid more, there is certainly a discussion that should occur. When you take into account the long hours and time on the road, Minor League Baseball is a costly dream. How much do these players sacrifice to play a game they love with the hope that some day they might find the big stage in the Majors?
This is a valid point, but simply forcing the league to adapt can have crippling consequences.
Dunkin Donuts and other companies have had top executives note that raising the minimum wage would force them to close locations and cut labor to offset costs. This is a concern in Minor League Baseball, as well. If the minimum wage and overtime rules are applied to them, it could seriously cripple operations with a number of franchises.
This is also a valid concern, but the players can’t be ignored either.
Minor League Baseball is a critical operation. With their communities, they provide an attraction that draws in revenue from tourists and sports fans. They give Major League Baseball teams a place to develop players and try them out, as well as rehab injured players. Simply calling it a smaller stage doesn’t cut it, because it does serve an economic purpose.
So who wins in the end: The players wanting a higher minimum wage or the league who doesn’t want to raise minimum wage?
The answer simply is both. Players should be able to negotiate better wages to help better support their families while they’re away. Given the nature of their profession, getting a part-time job to go to after a fulltime one doesn’t work it. The teams need to reassess the business operations, better accommodate their players. This makes sense from a PR perspective as well.
Players shouldn’t be shortchanged, but businesses shouldn’t be crippled. This is yet another instance where even a well-meaning government regulation could really damage a strong business. To avoid this, the government should step back and the parties involved in the dispute should come together to make the situation better.