A One-Page Provision About Minor League Baseball Shows How Broken Congress' Legislative Process Is

Congress kneecapped minor league ballplayers' lawsuit with last week's omnibus bill. Even if that was the right thing to do, the way it was done is wrong.


Mike McKinney/Icon SMI 364/Mike McKinney/Icon SMI/Newscom

An excellent example of the screwy process that led to the omnibus budget bill that passed last week—and of the ways special interests can manipulate that process—is the inclusion of a provision that exempts minor league baseball players from federal minimum wage laws and laws regarding overtime pay.

The provision has little, if anything, to do with the federal budget. But it is by no means insignificant. Major League Baseball successfully lobbied for its inclusion in the omnibus bill as a way to codify a longstanding de facto exemption and to undermine a lawsuit being brought by several players who argue they are due additional pay under federal rules, according to The Washington Post, which first reported on the provision's inclusion in the omnibus.

In other words, Congress bowed to the wishes of a powerful special interest and used the federal budget bill to put a big thumb on the scale of a lawsuit that has nothing to do with the budget. It did all that as part of a piece of legislation that totaled more than 2,200 pages and was made public just over a day before both chambers passed it. The baseball provision is found on page 1,967 of the bill, tucked in between a grant for increasing background checks for people who work with children and a grant to "protect young athletes from abuse."

The language included in the budget omnibus was lifted from a bill introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), called the "Save America's Pastime Act." The bill did not get any cosponsors and has not received so much as a committee hearing or a vote. Yet it's now law.

It's an example of "how our government is operating right now," Garrett Broshius, a minor league player turned attorney who is the players in their lawsuit, told Bloomberg Law. "You have billionaires lobbying on something proposed in secret and rushed into a spending bill even though it has nothing to do with spending."

In the suit filed against Major League Baseball and its minor league affiliates, players argue that some athletes make as little as $3,000 for a season that lasts about five months. Ballplayers have been exempted from federal minimum wage laws in the past because they've been considered employees of an "amusement or recreational establishment." The players were challenging that de facto arrangement (which dates back to 1922), but Congress' action last week means the arrangement is no longer de facto and the lawsuit is likely to fail now.

This doesn't mean—as Mother Jones and others have suggested—that Congress has condemned minor league ballplayers to work for "poverty wages." No one is forcing anyone to become a minor league baseball player, nor to sign a $3,000 contract for five months of work. Each player chooses to work for those terms, and most are doing so in hopes of reaching the major leagues and getting a much larger paycheck in the future. There are many circumstances in which people might choose to defer compensation in the present for the promise of greater opportunity.

It's also not clear to me that the ballplayers were headed toward victory in their lawsuit before Congress stepped in. Courts had been split, so far, on the question of whether minor league ballplayers are amusement or recreational employees—certainly, professional ballplayers, even minor league ones, don't have much in common with most people who fall into this class, which is mostly reserved for summer jobs and the like—and the two lawsuits have progressed slowly since they were launched in 2014.

Yet Congress' decision to kneecap those lawsuits and include the minimum wage rider in the omnibus bill is still a mistake, one that highlights just how broken the legislative process is.

If Congress believed legislation was necessary to address the situation raised by the ballplayers' lawsuit, it should have crafted that legislation in an open and honest process, with all interested parties having an opportunity to have their say. Instead, lawmakers slipped a bill that had zero co-sponsors into massive, completely unrelated piece of legislation and didn't allow any time for debate or amendments.

This sort of thing happens all the time, but that's no excuse. Every time it happens, the same message gets sent: If you have the money and resources to lobby Congress, you can short-circuit the legislative process and get what you want.

NEXT: Don't Let President Trump Distract You with Stormy Daniels

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The bill did not get any cosponsors and has not received so much as a committee hearing or a vote. Yet it’s now law.

    Who didn’t get tossed under the omnibus?

    1. Omnibot?

    2. Omni hotels?

    3. The Omni Group?

    4. The omnipresense of the internet?

    5. The omnipotence of government?

    6. Omnihitler?

      1. It’s really sad that it took over an hour for someone to make the Omni Magazine reference.

  2. We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.

    1. What we are finding out is that the Deep State and the Swamp are kicking Trump’s ass.

      1. Gun control. Ban bump stocks, more background checks, more money for ATF, higher legal age to purchase.

      2. Intervention and Empire. John Bolton. Bloated military budgets. Bombing Syria.

      3. Abuse of Power. How about Steve Menuchin’s use of government planes for private activities?

      4. Fiscal discipline. Spend. Spend. Spend. But, he does have a history of mismanaging enterprises and filing bankruptcy.

      5. Israel First.

      Trump is becoming a Neo-Cohen’s Neo-Cohen.

      1. 1. Trump okayed the bump stock ban and some of that other stuff. Trump’s not a good 2nd Amendment supporter. More to the point, Trump is taking away the left’s use of gun control as an issue in election 2018.

        2. Intervention yes. Empire no. Trump is trying to win and then pull out. We know from Stormy that Trump like to get in without a condom so its messy. Then he pulls out and he wins! Trump has his hands on both of ISIS’ shoulders while they consider violating their NDA agreement.

        3. Wasting taxpayer money is wrong but Menuchin’s wasting is nothing special. Wasting money is what lefties love to do.

        4. Fiscal spending. Yup. Trump has signed big spending bills created by CONGRESS. Trump has also tried to cut some government and has cut some government.

        5. Israel first. Trump is not a religious zealot supporter of Israel. He just trolls the left as they hate Jews and have since some Jews got away from their fellow Nazi brethren death camps.

        Trump is not a neo-con or he would do what neo-cons do. Justify sending Vietnam levels of troops to die. If W Bush and Obama did not already have troops in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc Trump would not have sent them to those locations.

        1. Your last sentence is complete speculation. Trump was inconsistent at best in terms of rhetorical anti-intervention, and as president he’s continued if not ramped up all the wars he inherited, including ones like Libya, Yemen, Somalia, etc. where there isn’t a large troop contingent necessitating a carefully orchestrated or gradual withdrawal. Afghanistan has no end in sight after nearly 17 years.

          1. Not really speculation. Trump has not sent troops into any country not attacked by US troops under Obama and W Bush.

      2. “Neo-Cohen”? That’s cute. Is that what passes for deep thought in progressive talking-point circles now?

        1. Lefties hate Jews, so anything to step up the anti-semitism.

          The only thing lefties want from Jews are their sweet dollar dollar bills yo.

        2. Progressive?

          If there’s any kind of person a progressive loathes, it is a principled and consistent Murray Rothbard anarcho-free enterprise-individualist. On this board, there are, at most, a handful of us.

          1. Nanarchists?

            Interesting to see anarchists on a Libertarian forum as we have almost nothing in common.

            1. At the point that you’re saying Rothbard is not a Libertarian at all, you’re definitely going in a weird direction with your definition.

              1. lovecon89 is also claiming to be either an anarchist or a libertarian, while also being a shameless Trumpsucker, so his definitions may not be recognizable to the rest of us.

                1. Lc’s political spectrum goes from monarchy on the right, through libertarianism in the middle, to socialism, progressivism, fascism, and communism on the left, and then anarchism is to the left of even that. It doesn’t make a ton of sense.

                  1. Anarchism cannot even really be on that spectrum of left to right. Anarchism does not have government ideology like Communists on the far left and Monarchs on the far right because anarchism has no government.

                    Libertarianism is in the middle because its some fiscal conservatism and some social liberalism.

                    The freest government ideology is in the middle. Farthest from Communism and farthest from monarchies.

                2. Hugh Akston|3.26.18 @ 1:26PM|#
                  lovecon89 is also claiming to be either an anarchist or a libertarian, while also being a shameless Trumpsucker, so his definitions may not be recognizable to the rest of us.

                  So which sockpuppet are you Hugh?

                  You’re probably a lefty so you would not know what Libertarianism looks like at all.

                  Have fun sucking Hillary’s dick.

              2. “Rothbard began to consider himself a private property anarchist in 1950 and later began to use ‘anarcho-capitalist’ to describe his political ideology. In his anarcho-capitalist model, a system of protection agencies compete in a free market and are voluntarily supported by consumers who choose to use their protective and judicial services. Anarcho-capitalism would mean the end of the state monopoly on force” -wiki (Rothbard)

                I never said Rothbard didn’t have Libertarian tendencies. He considered himself an anarchist which would not include a government, no property rights, and no rule of law.

                I am surprised the anarchists won’t admit what anarchism is.

            2. The cornerstone of libertarianism is the NAP.

              By definition, that means that to be a libertarian, one must not make apologies for democracy or republican party politicians or democrat party politicians or Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or the Pentagon or the DEA or the FBI, CIA, NSA, or Empire or the IRS or eminent domain or Abe the mass murderer Lincoln or cronyism or AIPAC or the nation of Israel or money being confiscated from people who actually make and produce something so that it can be given to Israel.

              1. Fine. You seen curiously fixated on Israel though. Which is your business, but you could have just left it at “foreign aid”.

              2. The cornerstone of Libertarianism is not NAP. NAP is one of several fundamentals. These fundamentals would include rule of law, property rights, and free market.

            3. People interested in vastly decreasing the size and power of the state have almost nothing in common with each other? No, man. The only difference between a libertarian and an ancap is that libertarians will settle for a certain amount of (probably minimal) government coercion while ancaps want to replace the nation-state completely with non-coercive social structures.

  3. No AM links, and soon we’re going to be out of AM.

    1. Robby wants it to be known beyond all doubt that he is back.

      1. It was actually Krayewski’s at bat this morning.

        1. That sumbitch thinks he can skip out on timely links just because he doesn’t work here anymore? Oh hell no.

      2. You didn’t get fruit sushi in the mail to announce his return?

        1. Robby would never give away fruit sushi. Everybody knows this.

          1. You’re just jealous because you didn’t make the cut to get a care package.

          2. He sent me a video of him eating fruit sushi (without a hairnet!!!).

  4. This just confirms that MLB owns Congress. But I really do get tired of No one is forcing anyone to become a minor league baseball player, nor to sign a $3,000 contract for five years of work. Each player chooses to work for those terms, this sort of bullshit.

    MLB’s antitrust exemption means that no competition is allowed. And yes – a similar sort of thing occurs re NFL and NBA – though in their case the ‘beneficiary’ of the screw you we pay nothing is the NCAA who ties their pipeline in with NFL/NBA via draft.

    Professional sports in America is really the best way of determining whether someone who yaps about free markets is in favor of actual free markets or is only in favor of plutocracy

    1. These sports teams have politicians convinced that new taxpayer subsidized stadiums are not wastes of taxpayer money.

    2. Yeah, try telling some voter in Texas or Indiana how corrupt college ball is and how it needs to be reformed.

    3. How is competition not allowed? The XFL is starting back up.

      1. MLB obviously can prevent direct competition far more easily cuz of the anti-trust exemption. NFL only has the media coercion (direct interference with customers/revenue) and player pipeline blacklist (direct interference with labor supply) tools. Which was enough to kill the first XFL (which may well have deserved to die – but that’s not the point). That direct interference with a competitors production/operation decisions is precisely the economic definition of NOT free to enter a market. Only customers can ‘regulate’ a producer’s actions/success in a free market. The second other producers have that legal ability to do so, it is a controlled market.

    4. I haven’t thought this out completely, but does MLB actually need an antitrust exemption? Isn’t the business unit, and the product, MLB in total, not each team? A single MLB team has no product. It’s the competition between the teams that constitute the product. So it makes sense for the owners to work together. Each team is more like an employee, or franchisee, of MLB. And the market is free in that anyone can choose to create another league. Would like thoughts from the commentariat….

      1. Make it such that businesses can’t write off, from their taxes, money they spend on “advertising” and see what happens to professional sports – or the “entertainment” industry as a whole.
        That would include providing “rewards to customers”, which end up getting used by the top brass. Those corporate sky boxes are all paid for with funds written off on the company’s taxes.
        Most of the money the “league” gets comes from the networks, who get their money from businesses buying advertising time on those networks. Those businesses write off those costs from their taxable income.
        Why should the treasury take a hit, so that a business can spend money to bring in more customers?
        It creates an unfair advantage against the struggling business, that doesn’t have the income to cover the very expensive cost of advertising.

  5. Are these teams not subject to state laws?

    Why is there a federal minimum wage? Why does it exempt carnies?

    1. Even Congress isn’t foolhardy enough to mess with the carnival folk.

      1. They tried with the cake folk and now carnival folk.

        Uh oh. Americans just might start paying attention to politics if the bread and games don’t distract them.

      2. They’ve seen Freaks. They know what happens. It’s what happened to Jeff Sessions.

        1. No spoilers!

  6. I’d rather listen to QotSA.

  7. That would have fixed a problem created by government with more government. How about no anti-trust exemptions and no mimimum wage laws

    1. Bingo, but the Trumpists are no more interested in that than their ideological allies, the progressives.

  8. Maybe it’s time for a federal constitutional amendment, based on what’s in various state constitutions – every statute must be limited to one subject, which should be expressed in the title.

    1. A balanced-budget amendment would be nice too.

      1. Yeah, one can dream.

  9. No links, shitty tripe articles, shrieks & trolls, this place is my new favorite dumpster fire I can’t seem to quit watching burn!

    1. It’s really gone downhill since Krayewski left.

  10. Probably the biggest factors militating in favor or Trump winning the White House was his express support for eliminating illegal immigration, putting some brakes on legal immigration, and building the wall. Guess what we find in the budget?

    1. An expansion in the H-2B guest worker program and

    2. An expansion in the EB-5 investor visa program, championed by Wall Street and NYC real estate and investment outfits.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.