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Elephant Rumblings: MLBPA starting efforts to unionize minor leagues

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2017 Major League Baseball World Series Game Two: Houston Astros v. Los Angeles Dodgers

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Late Sunday night, there were rumblings more or less out of nowhere that the Major League Baseball Players Association was backing minor league players and starting efforts towards the unionization of Minor League Baseball. MLBPA sent authorization cards to minor leaguers, surveying if farm team players want to be represented by the Player’s Association. This is an initial step to gauge internal support, and to start building momentum towards a full push to a minors union.

As reported by The Athletic’s Evan Drellich, the MLBPA will be following standard protocol for confidentiality when it comes to these authorization cards. Once results are in, the MLBPA will present the total cards to the National Labour Relations Board to show the player’s want for a minor league union. With 30% of potential players responding with the cards the MLBPA could then push for a general vote for unionization that would require a 50% approval threshold to pass.

Advocates For Minor Leaguers, a nonprofit that had led a strong push towards minors unionization since 2020 has had all of its members join the MLBPA in new roles, and has disbanded the nonprofit. This serves as passing of the torch, but also a show of how seriously this is being taken by the MLBPA, moving from third parties advocating to direct steps towards unionization.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matt Kawahara, the A’s and the team’s union representative Cole Irvin fully support the assistance from MLBPA.

There has yet to be a response from MLB. Likely they will stay quiet until a figure of support is known from players in the minors, but the growing sentiment likely means that a minor league representation is on the way. This follows advocation by MLB players during the lockout, as while they could not directly negotiate on behalf of then-unrepresented minor league players, they could still affect general bonuses and team spending figures. This is just the start of what could be a particularly heady and protracted stretch between minor league players, the MLBPA, and MLB.

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