NEW YORK -- While the owners and Major League Baseball players intend to collectively bargain for the terms of their next agreement, one group will not be at the table during those discussions: minor leaguers.
While Major League Baseball recently announced improved housing conditions across all levels of the minor leagues -- including furnished housing -- many across the minor leagues do not believe this is enough. As a result, on Thursday, Advocates for Minor Leaguers announced the formation of a player steering committee, which will provide strategic advice and leadership regarding the ongoing labor battle to provide better conditions across baseball's development levels.
"The players on the Advocates for Minor Leaguers Player Steering Committee have decades of combined experience in the Minor Leagues," said Advocates for Minor Leaguers director Harry Marino. "They are thoughtful, intelligent and committed to improving the game of baseball for future generations. At a meeting earlier today, they decided to make public the existence of the committee and to voice support for the Major League Players Association."
The players on the committee will remain anonymous to protect their future job prospects in the sport.
"For decades, we Minor League players have been exploited by Major League Baseball's owners, who have abused their unique antitrust exemption to pay us less than we are worth," the steering committee said in a statement. "This year, most of us will make less than $15,000. Many of us will work second and third jobs, struggling just to make ends meet and put food on the table. Without question, the mistreatment that we endure as Minor League players is the most urgent labor issue facing the sport."
Marino said that the recent concession by Major League Baseball to provide improved housing shows the balance of power is shifting towards minor leaguers.
"There is much work yet to be done," Marino said. "Going forward, I expect the committee to play a key role in our ongoing effort to provide a collective voice for Minor League players and improve Minor League working conditions."
The first action for the committee is to voice its public support for the Major League Baseball Players Association, which the owners decided to lock out at midnight on Thursday morning.
"The owners who have voluntarily decided to shut down Major League Baseball are the same individuals who abuse a legal loophole to pay Minor Leaguers poverty-level wages," the committee said. "As in the past, they use restrictive contracts and collusion to pay the vast majority of professional baseball players less than their actual worth."
The committee stated that the uniform player contract for minor leaguers -- which ties players to the same team for seven seasons and prevents them from seeking better pay in baseball domestically or internationally -- is fundamentally unfair.
"Now that we have found our collective voice," the committee said, "we intend to use it."