Petition signed by over 1,000 minor league players asks MLB for spring training pay

More than 1,000 minor league baseball players have signed a petition requesting that Major League Baseball teams provide players with payment for spring training.

The petition -- organized by Advocates for Minor Leaguers and submitted to MLB on Thursday -- follows a federal court ruling in March that said minor leaguers are year-round employees and also found that MLB violated Arizona state minimum wage laws and is liable for triple damages.

MLB, which told ESPN it was unable to comment on "ongoing litigation," has argued that minor leaguers are seasonal employees, akin to creative artists, making them exempt from minimum wage laws. The court case found that minor leaguers performed the legal definition of work during spring training in Arizona and Florida and therefore should be paid as such.

"Minor league baseball players have not received a full paycheck in more than six months," said Tampa Bay Rays Triple-A catcher Joe Hudson, a member of the Advocates for Minor Leaguers player steering committee. "Since reporting to spring training two to three months ago, we have been working full time, wherever our MLB team has required us to be. We deserve pay for that work."

Minor leaguers who spoke to ESPN on the condition of anonymity said the petition is a step toward unionizing the minor leagues. Multiple minor leaguers described clubhouses that are becoming more educated on the labor rights of minor leagues and the way MLB's antitrust exemption affects their employment status. There has been increased engagement from minor leaguers across cities and levels in organizing to speak up for their labor rights, players said.

"This petition shows that minor leaguers are engaged and are willing to speak up for their rights," one National League minor leaguer said. "We understand that there are thousands of us and only 30 teams."

Advocates for Minor Leaguers executive director Harry Marino pointed toward the league's revised minor league housing policy and pressure on several teams to provide back pay for extended spring training in 2021 as evidence for the growing power of minor league players.

"Advocates for Minor Leaguers has brought minor league baseball players together to speak with a collective voice for the very first time," Marino said. "Our efforts will not stop until minor leaguers are at the table with MLB discussing compensation consistent with their true value."