Minor league players lose federal antitrust appeal over low wages

Antitrust Law



A federal appeals court has tossed a suit filed by professional minor league baseball players who claimed the league illegally depressed wages in violation of antitrust law.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) on Monday that minor league baseball is exempt from antitrust laws, report the Recorder (sub. req.), Reuters, Courthouse News Service and Bloomberg Law.

The court said the Curt Flood Act of 1998 had explicitly exempted minor league baseball from antitrust laws. The court also cited Supreme Court and 9th Circuit precedent upholding the business of baseball’s antitrust exemption.

The suit had alleged that most minor league players earn less than $7,500 a year and they receive no salary during spring training, when they work 50 to 60 hours a week.

Uniform player contracts required by Major League Baseball include “reserve clauses” that give MLB franchise exclusive rights to their minor league players for seven championship seasons. The clauses bar players from playing for other baseball teams, though franchises have the power to transfer players.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said the players may seek an en banc rehearing or may seek Supreme Court review. “Baseball is a multibillion-dollar business these days,” Samuel Kornhauser told Bloomberg, “and there’s no reason to protect 30 billionaires from paying a competitive wage.”

The case is Miranda v. Selig.

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