Minor League Notebook: A bill introduced to exempt minor leagues from Fair Labor Standards Act

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Politicians are known to flip-flop in their opinions, but a House of Representatives member from Illinois may have broken some sort of speed record in doing so.

Cheri Bustos, a Democrat representing the Moline area, introduced a bill co-sponsored with Republican Brett Guthrie of Kentucky a week ago last Friday entitled the “Save America’s Pastime Act.” The bill would exempt minor-league baseball players from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was enacted to protect hourly wage workers.

It presumably came in response to a federal lawsuit filed in California last year by 2,300 former minor leaguers who say Major League Baseball has violated wage laws by paying its farmhands no overtime and less than minimum wage. Depending on service time, the typical Cedar Rapids Kernels player, for instance, makes between $1,100 and $1,500 a month pre-tax and only during the season.

After much public outcry, Bustos backed down from supporting the bill. That came a mere six days after sponsoring it.

“In the past 24 hours, several concerns about the bill have been brought to my attention that have led me to withdraw my support of the legislation,” Bustos said in a statement. “I strongly support raising the minimum wage and the right to collective bargaining for fair wages, and I believe that Major League Baseball can and should pay young, passionate minor leaguers a fair wage for the work they do.”

Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball released separate statements last week in support of the “Save America’s Pastime Act.” They claim minor leaguers are “creative professionals,” and it’s not practical to pay them depending on game length or how much time they spend daily at the ballpark.

The thought is minor league teams like the Kernels will be asked by major league clubs to help pay players if the federal lawsuit is successful. As a result, several minor league teams would have to fold because they wouldn’t be able to survive the added financial burden.

Another thought is MLB clubs would not sign as many players to contracts and simply get rid of certain levels of the minor leagues. That, obviously, could impact clubs such as the Kernels.

If there is no low-Class A level, there is no Midwest League and no Kernels. There are a lot of things that could happen, and the situation as a whole bears watching.

How They're Doing

Colin Rea (Cascade): Allowed just four hits and one earned run over six innings Friday night to beat the New York Yankees. Is 5-3 with a 4.79 earned run average in 16 games, 15 starts, this season for the San Diego Padres.
Scott Schebler (Cedar Rapids Prairie): Outfielder went 4-for-5 with a home run Friday night for the Triple-A Louisville Bats (Reds). Is hitting .298 in 49 games for Louisville, with eight home runs and 26 RBIs.
Matt Dermody (University of Iowa): Relief pitcher has allowed just a run in 16 innings since joining Double-A New Hampshire (Blue Jays). Has allowed just 10 hits and a walk, striking out 16.
Jon Keller (Cedar Rapids Xavier): Reliever is 0-2 with a save and 5.20 earned run average in 19 appearances for Double-A Bowie (Orioles).
Mitch Keller (Cedar Rapids Xavier): Starting pitcher is 5-5 with a 2.71 ERA in 13 starts for low-A West Virginia (Pirates). Peripherals are great: 69 2/3 innings, 51 hits and 9 walks allowed, with 79 strikeouts.
Jake Yacinich (University of Iowa): Shortstop had a three RBI game this week for low-Class A Burlington (Royals). Hitting .200 in 33 games with four home runs and 17 RBIs.
Joel Booker (University of Iowa): Outfielder is hitting .333 in eight games for Arizona Rookie League White Sox. Has six RBIs in 33 at-bats.
Kris Goodman (University of Iowa): Outfielder is hitting .222 in 22 games for Rookie-level Batavia (Marlins). Has 13 walks and three stolen bases.
Nick Roscetti (University of Iowa): Shortstop has begun his pro career with Arizona Rookie League Brewers. Is 4 for 13 in four games, with an RBI and two stolen bases.
Eric Toole (University of Iowa): Outfielder is hitting .242 in eight games for Rookie-level Boise (Rockies), with a RBI.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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