SAN FRANCISCO -- The attorney representing minor league baseball players has vowed to appeal a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeal Ninth Circuit dismissing the players' class action antitrust suit against Major League Baseball.
“We are going to petition the Supreme Court, said attorney Samuel Kornhauser. “We still believe the central points that the players are paid less than minimum wage and there is no competition for the players services as MLB owners are getting together and fixing the prices paid to ball players below competitive wage levels.”
According to Kornhauser, Major League Baseball and its teams have for decades conspired to depress wages while increasing player control in professional baseball’s minor leagues. Kornhauser said several of the players represented in the lawsuit worked between 50 to 60 hours per week, but earned less than $10,000 per year,
“Some of these guys are riding buses all summer and barely making a living, Kornhauser said in an interview with the Northern California Record. “Most first year players make less than $3,000 a season. There is a question of fairness.”
Kornhauser argued that MLB should have long ago been stripped of its exemption from antitrust laws because the exemption was granted at a time before MLB became the singular national entity that controls the highest levels of professional baseball in the United States.
But the Ninth Circuit disagreed and sided with MLB, finding that the U.S. Supreme Court granted baseball its initial antitrust exemption in 1922 because the game itself was not a form of interstate commerce. Since that time the high court on two other occasions reaffirmed this decision.
In 1998, Congress passed the Curt Flood Act, establishing that the players dealing with the MLB at the highest levels are subject to antitrust laws but maintained the exemption regarding the employment of minor league players.
Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas, who authored the Ninth Circuit Court's opinion, said because Congress had made the exemption for the minor league players employment law and that decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, the lower court’s hands were tied.
“A precedent of [the Supreme Court] must be followed by the lower federal courts no matter how misguided the judges of those courts may think it to be,” Thomas wrote. “Further, under the law-of-the-circuit rule, we are bound by decisions of prior panels. In light of Supreme Court precedent, the decisions of our court, and the Curt Flood Act, minor league baseball falls squarely within the nearly century-old business-of-baseball exemption from federal antitrust laws.”
Kornhauser says the fight is not finished and he blamed the MLB players union for not looking out for its brethren in the minor leagues.
“The Major League Baseball Players Association sold the minor league players down the river. The minor leaguers had no representation before Congress,” Kornhauser said. “The union made a deal with the devil to protect themselves and left the minor league players unprotected.
Kornhauser said his office is seeking discovery from Major League Baseball and working on a petition to have the case reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.