Minor League Players’ Antitrust Claim Strikes Out

Minor league baseball players lost their bid to force Major League Baseball to increase their salaries through an antitrust lawsuit after a federal appeals court held Monday that MLB is exempt from antitrust law.

Minor league players sued in 2015 claiming many earn less than $10,000 a year and are forced to work without pay during spring training, often for 60 hours a week.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals  said the U.S. Supreme Court first exempted the business of baseball from federal antitrust law more than a century ago, holding that it does not constitute “trade or commerce among the several states.”

The high court revisited the ruling in 1953 and again upheld the ban on application of antitrust law.

The players sued MLB contended that each franchise has a 40-man roster and a “farm system” of 150 to 250 players in the minor leagues whose salaries may range from as low as $1,100 a month in Class-A minor league to $2,150 per month for a Class-AAA player.

The suit alleged that many players make less than $7,500 a year and some earn as little as $3,000 annually.  They receive no salary during spring training.

In 1998, Congress enacted the Curt Flood Act, which declared that people in the business of major league baseball are subject to the antitrust laws. But the statute specifically maintained the antitrust exemption when it came to minor league players, the court said.

“Considering the case law and the Curt Flood Act, it is undeniably true that minor league baseball – particularly the employment of minor league baseball players and the requirement that they sign a uniform contract containing a reserve clause – falls squarely within baseball’s exemption from federal antitrust laws,” wrote Judge Sidney Thomas.

The panel upheld the lower court ruling by San Francisco Judge Haywood Gilliam.

Case: Miranda v. Selig, No. 15-16938




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