Independent minor league baseball could be threatened without help from lawmakers, the attorney for the Frontier League with teams in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and elsewhere said.
Tom Ysursa, general counsel for the Frontier League, said league officials support a measure that recently passed the Illinois State Senate that would exempt certain minor league players from Illinois’ minimum wage requirement. He argues it comes down to how employees are classified.
“The issue for the Frontier League is not about anything to do with any proposed raising of the minimum wage [rate] in Illinois,” Ysursa said, referring to a separate bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. “The issue for the Frontier League is to get Illinois law the same as federal law when it comes to whether employers of seasonal employees are to comply with the Minimum Wage Act.”
The Frontier League season runs from mid-May until early September. Ysursa said owners need this change to keep players on the field.
“If their seasonal employees, which is what they are, are not exempt, the costs associated with that threatens the business model and threatens to leave many municipal stadiums empty without tenants,” Ysursa said.
Pete Laven, president of the Schaumburg, Ill., Boomers franchise, said he believes this is a reaction by the league to litigation filed by various minor league players across the country. One lawsuit in particular was filed by two former Frontier League players for what they say is low pay that violates federal law.
Laven says he’s heard of players asking to get paid for activities in which they aren’t at the stadium, such as workouts or travel time. He argues teams take care of players in other ways, such as finding living arrangements with nearby families and supplying meals throughout the season.
A bill in the Illinois Senate passed unanimously and now moves to the House for debate.
The Frontier League has teams in Joliet, Crestwood, Schaumburg, Sauget, Normal, and Marion in Illinois; Avon, Ohio; Traverse City, Mich.; Washington, Pa.; Evansville, Ind.; Florence, Ky.; and O’Fallon, Mo.