Major League Baseball faces class action lawsuit in Puerto Rico for labor exploitation of minor league players

Former Puerto Rican minor league pitcher Daniel Concepcion files a class action lawsuit against Major League Baseball (MLB) presented in the Federal Court of San Juan and that alleges Major League Baseball Commissioner’s Office and its 30 teams collude to violate labor laws from the United States and Puerto Rico.

The legal remedy also It seeks to challenge the exception to federal antitrust laws that MLB has enjoyed for decades, which it classifies as “a monopsony cartel,” which refers to a commercial situation where there is only one buyer for a certain product.

The exception argument has also been raised since last month by several federal lawsuits by minor league teams against MLB in New York.

Concepción was a pitcher within the Kansas City Royals organization. He played in its affiliates in Idaho, North Carolina and Kentucky in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Later he played for the Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rico winter in the 2016-217 campaign.

In his lawsuit, Concepción asks the court to certify the appeal as a class action lawsuit on behalf of the other Minor League players since 2012.

It alleges that former MLB commissioner Bud Selig, current MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, and MLB franchises “have conspired and agreed among themselves to eliminate competition for the acquisition and non-competitive pay of minor league players, salaries below the market value (wage settlement) in violation of federal antitrust laws.”

He added that “they have also conspired to pay and have paid illegally low wages during the championship season, no wages for overtime and no wages for work performed outside of the championship season, in violation of federal law” known as the “Fair Labor Standards Act” (FLSA) and the statutes of Puerto Rico.

Concepción denounced that the defendants exploit minor league players, taking advantage of the fact that they do not have union representation.

It states that in order to “monopolize minor league players, restrict and depress the wages of minor league players, and violate the FLSA and the labor and minimum wage laws of Puerto Rico, the MLB cartel inserted a provision (known as the reserve clause) into player contracts to allow teams to retain contractual rights to players and restrict their movement and ability to negotiate with other teams for their services and the compensation they receive.

According to the lawsuit, the use of what is known as the “uniform player contract” – required by MLB – they are only paid for the five months of the season, not counting the work they are asked to do the rest of the year, including spring camps. He adds that in a calendar year, most of those players receive less than $16,000.

Likewise, the lawsuit denounced that MLB’s decision last November to eliminate 40 of the 160 Minor League teams increases “its monopsony power and further reduces competition in the payment of minor league players.”

Last December, at least four Minor League teams argued that the removal of their affiliations represents anticompetitive behavior in violation of federal antitrust law, known as the “Sherman Antitrust Act.”

Like the Concepción lawsuit, these teams seek to reverse a precedent of the United States Supreme Court, known as “Federal Baseball”. The highest federal justice forum ruled that MLB was not subject to that law because baseball games are a type of exhibition that did not involve interstate commerce as defined by law.

For almost 100 years, multiple lawsuits in court have failed to change the jurisprudence, which only baseball has had, since the Federal Supreme Court did not extend the exemption to other professional leagues.

However, in a recent NCAA college sports case, NCAA judges Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh expressed skepticism, so the plaintiffs believe there is now a better environment to seek change.

As a remedy, the lawsuit asks the court to pay the minimum and overtime wages owed to the players under federal and Puerto Rico law.

It also asks for an injunction asking the plaintiffs to pay damages for uncompetitive wages and to stop the “illegal policies” alleged in the lawsuit. In the same way, he requests that they be prevented from continuing to use the “reserve clause”, which prevents the movement of players.

The new day He requested a reaction from MLB, but has not received a response so far.

The 59-page lawsuit was submitted this week in San Juan by Mr. Rafael Baella Silva, representing two law firms based in San Francisco and Chicago. The case was assigned to federal judge Aida Delgado.


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Major League Baseball faces class action lawsuit in Puerto Rico for labor exploitation of minor league players