Daily Labor Report® is the objective resource the nation’s foremost labor and employment professionals read and rely on, providing reliable, analytical coverage of top labor and employment...
By Chris Opfer
July 1 — A House Democrat has found herself in a bit of a pickle over legislation that would block wage and hour protections for baseball players toiling in the national pastime's lower rungs.
Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) June 30 withdrew her support for the Save America's Pastime Act (H.R. 5580), just six days after signing on to the measure as a co-sponsor. The legislation would exempt minor league baseball players from minimum wage and overtime pay requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Lobbyists for minor league baseball clubs have been pushing Congress for the exemption since at least last year. Bustos said she changed her mind after hearing “several concerns” about her support for a measure that would erode wage and hour protections.
“Whether it’s on the factory floor, in classrooms or on the playing fields of one of America’s revered traditions, 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 league players a fair wage for the work they do,” Bustos said in a statement posted to her website.
The snafu highlights a central disagreement in Congress about whether small businesses and other employers can afford Democrat-backed moves to raise the federal wage floor and expand eligibility for overtime pay. Bustos's double take reflects Democrats' concerns that new exemptions could swallow the general rules that workers must be paid at least $7.25 an hour and time-and-a-half wages for all hours beyond 40 each week.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), comes as MLB and some of its teams are mired in litigation over claims by players who say they were paid as little as $3,000 for five months of work ( Senne v. Office of the Comm'r of Baseball, N.D. Cal., No. 3:14-cv-00608).
The players allege they regularly worked 50 to 70 hours per week during the season. They also say they were required to participate in off-season training and instructional sessions without compensation.
MLB clubs field six teams at various levels in the minor league system, controlling all decisions about which of their players are assigned to each team. Minor league teams are owned independently and enter into affiliation agreements with big league clubs, under which MLB teams agree to pay all player salaries and expenses and the minor league teams foot the bills for operation and marketing costs.
Professional baseball organizations generally maintain that they fall under the FLSA's “amusement or recreational establishment” exemption, under which a business that operates for seven months or less per year or generates the bulk of its income over a six-month period isn't bound by the law's minimum wage and overtime requirements.
A patchwork of rulings has left the issue mostly undecided and has spurred the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues to lobby Congress for a specific exemption.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department recently resisted calls to soften the blow for small businesses and nonprofit groups in DOL's new overtime rule (RIN:1235-AA11). The rule, which takes effect in December, is expected to make more than 4 million additional workers eligible for time-and-a-half pay.
Guthrie told Bloomberg BNA via e-mail July 1 that Bustos's office informed him about her change of heart earlier the same day.
“I was looking forward to working with Cheri, but I respect her decision,” Guthrie said. “I have always tried to make every piece of legislation I introduce bipartisan and am ready to continue to work on this issue when I return to Washington.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at firstname.lastname@example.org
Text of the bill is available at http://src.bna.com/gra.
Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)