ST. LOUIS – Like many young baseball players, Aaron Senne dreamed of fame and fortune when he signed his first contract as a Miami Marlins’ draft choice after a record-breaking college career at Missouri.
Reality as a low-level minor leaguer was far different: a paltry salary with an equivalent hourly wage less than what fast-food workers make.
Senne and former minor league players in each of the 30 big league organizations are suing Major League Baseball, alleging violations of federal wage and overtime laws in a case some legal observers suggest has significant merit. They are seeking class-action status on behalf of the estimated 6,000 ballplayers
“You come from high school or college where you’re not making anything and you just think, ‘I’m getting paid to play baseball. I’ll chase my dream,’ “ said Senne, a 2010 10th round pick who retired last year. “You get that first paycheck and you do a double take. It’s an eye opener.”
In Senne’s case, that first check from the Jamestown, New York, Jammers, a short-season Class A affiliate, was for $1,100 a month and $25 a day in meal money. At his peak, he earned $7,000 in 2012, but like all minor leaguers, wasn’t paid salary during spring training or for his offseason conditioning work.
Federal antitrust exemptions have largely protected pro baseball from comparable legal challenges. But in this case, the 32 plaintiffs allege violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, a 1938 law that stipulates a minimum wage for workers and requires overtime for most employees who work more than 40 hours weekly.
The suit was filed earlier this year in federal court in San Francisco.
Attorneys representing Major League Baseball in the case did not respond to interview requests, and a spokesman in the league’s New York office declined comment.