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Minnesota Minor League Baseball Team Seeks Exemptions from Minimum Wage Laws

SAINT PAUL, MN — The owners of a Minnesota minor league baseball team recently petitioned the state for exemptions to the state’s minimum wage laws and any future minimum wage increases from municipal ordinances. The team claims that paying its players in accordance with state and local wage laws would put the team’s future in jeopardy since the team operates in a league with salary caps and cannot have a combined team payroll greater than what the league’s bylaws allow.

As it currently stands, the St. Paul Saints have a combined team payroll of $115,000 per year for the entire 22-man roster, the maximum under the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball in which the team plays. That averages out to be only $5,227 per player for the league’s four-month season.

Players in the minor league system typically spend about six hours per day at the stadium on days when the team plays a game, which puts the individual athlete’s average hourly rate at less than $9 per hour. Those numbers are based on a player making the average salary and some even earn less than that if they are new to the league. Under Minnesota state wage laws, employers with gross revenues of more than $500,000 must pay workers at least $9.65.

The reason that some minor league teams can get away with paying less than state and federal minimum wages is that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which sets national standards on minimum wage and overtime pay rates, considers semi-pro athletes to be apprentices and thus exempt from the wage protections that almost all workers across the country enjoy.

The team is seeking an exemption to keep its pay practices aligned with federal wage laws, which comes ahead of a move by local lawmakers in the city of St. Paul to raise wage rates for workers in the city to $15 per hour. The team’s owners claim that anything less would jeopardize the team’s solvency and likely put them out of business.

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