The new spending bill signed by President Donald Trump includes a significant item that affects a labor sector very far removed from Washington politics. Thousands of players across the country take the field for Minor League Baseball, but now their wages are exempt from federal labor law. It's sending a shockwave through the national pastime.
"Nobody read it. It's only hours old," said President Trump, at a press conference last week.
If you do read the more than 2200 pages of the spending bill approved by Congress and signed by President Trump, you'd find a one-page item affecting a big part of the sports industry.
"The Save America's Pastime Act would provide an exemption for minimum wage laws for Major League Baseball."
Garrett Broshuis, a six-year member of the Giants organization, is now an attorney representing minor leaguers in a 2014 class action lawsuit that brought the act to life two years ago.
"One of the co-sponsors immediately withdrew within two days."
That was Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, who tweeted, "I've immediately withdrawn my support," but the act resurfaced in this year's spending bill.
Boylan graduate Zach Stoner lived the minor league life with the White Sox.
"You're only making about $500 every couple of weeks."
Minor leaguers are Major League employees, and M.L.B. determines their salary.
"Because of that anti-trust exemption, they're compensated at an artificially low level, the opposite of a free market," says Broshuis.
That pay scale starts at the top, with the Players Association taking a percentage of MLB-related revenue, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the league, but that money trickles upward, with an average M.L.B. payroll north of $134 million for this season. With 30 Major League teams, and each team's farm system stretched across all classes of the Minor League - that totals 247 teams, and thousands of players.
13 News reached out to Major League Baseball - they issued the following statement:
“The legislation merely codifies the status quo that Minor League baseball players can be treated as salaried employees as they have been treated during the entire history of Minor League baseball. No one has ever suggested that baseball players must be treated as hourly workers subject to overtime (if, for example, games go late or they choose to take extra practice), other than a single litigation filed in 2014 that MLB is vigorously defending.”
Broshuis says, "the status quo is untenable. They haven't increased minor league salaries in over a decade. For over a decade, the starting salaries have been $1100 per month."
This salary structure, set by the majors, goes up by MiLB class, but players are regarded as seasonal employees - they do not receive overtime or offseason pay.
"If you're employing us with all these strict requirements where we can't do this or that, then let us go for the winter, where do we get our income from?" Stoner says. "A lot of them were delivery drivers, working at fast food chains just to have a part time job."
It's an athletic line of work, but when it comes to compensation, Broshuis says this isn't a game.
"They're also very good at their jobs. They're providing a valuable service, both to the fans in the stands, and the teams they sign contracts with."
Stoner is out of the game, but he's keeping an eye on his Minor League brothers.
"I hope they find a solution to being able to make it fair, you're not making very much money, for them to take more, it's kind of absurd."
We reached out to Congresswoman Bustos for additional comment - and received a statement criticizing the spending bill's path to passage. The Minor League's workforce now heads into a new season without the protection of the Federal Labor Standards Act.