Mets discuss minor league player pay with advocacy group and New York State senator

In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind meeting, top brass from an individual major league club, the Mets, recently sat down with the non-profit advocates for minor leagues to discuss potentially improving pay and working conditions for minor leagues in the Mets system.

New York State Senator Jessica Ramos, whose district includes the Mets and Citi Field, attended and helped broker the first meeting, which was in April.

“Since Steve Cohen took ownership of the Mets in 2020, he has been so responsive to the fans and cared for the team in a way that matches our devotion to the team,” Ramos said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to sitting down with Uncle Steve and the minor leaguers so we can work out a way to finish the job, and extend that same sense of care to all the players.”

A second meeting between Ramos, Advocates and the Mets was initially planned for Monday but is now expected to be held in the near future. No players were on hand for the first discussion, but players in the Mets’ system are expected to attend the next, said executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers Harry Marino.

The Mets declined comment Wednesday.

While it’s unclear whether the meetings will ultimately produce change, Ramos and Marino are optimistic.

“We applaud the Mets for their willingness to meet with Mets Minor Leaguers and our staff to discuss improving minor league pay and working conditions,” Marino said in a statement. “The exploitation of Minor Leaguers is an industry dynamic that far predates Mr. Cohen’s purchase of the team. We hope that, under his leadership, the Mets will lead the league on this important issue.”

Major League Baseball declined comment when asked about the league’s position on the meetings.

Advocates and Ramos, the chair of the New York State Senate’s Committee on Labor, connected last year at a time when major and minor league players were newly drawing attention to conditions in the minors. That included Mets players who wore wristbands dedicated to the topic.

In January, Ramos sent a letter to Cohen decrying the state of minor league compensation, and referenced a Cohen tweet from July 3, 2021. Advocates for Minor Leaguers that day tweeted out a link to a story in the New York Daily News about the Mets’ treatment of minor leaguers. Cohen responded to Advocates, writing, “We are looking into this and will have a comprehensive response by late next week. This was news to me and want to be thoughtful and not reactive in my actions. We need to examine our treatment of coaches too.”

“We are still very much looking forward to that response,” Ramos wrote to Cohen. “We recognize that MLB recently committed to cover the cost of housing for Minor Leaguers beginnings in the 2022 season. However, much work remains to stop the unacceptable exploitation of minor leagues in this multi-billion dollar industry.”

Ramos and Advocates held conversations with Mets minor leaguers, who contributed to a list of seven proposed changes that Ramos included in the letter to Cohen:

1. Pay weekly salaries all year round, without periods of free work.
2. Provide or cover the cost of in-season housing.
3. Provide or cover the cost of three meals per day during the season.
4. Provide multiple buses on road trips and sleeper buses on overnight road trips.
5. Assist players in shipping their cars to a new affiliate if reassigned and assist players without a car in getting to the field each day.
6. Cover the cost of off-season training.
7. Adjust salaries and per diems based on the cost of living in different affiliate home cities.

Four other New York State senators — Rachel May, Diane Savino, Timothy M. Kennedy and John Mannion — were co-signers of the letter, which was copied to commissioner Rob Manfred as well.

Advocates for Minor Leaguers aims to improve the lot of players in all organizations. But Advocates saw a new entree to engage with an individual team based on an argument lawyers representing MLB made that teams are free to set their own pay for their minor leaguers, a person with knowledge of the meetings said.

During a long-running lawsuit brought by minor league players over wage laws, MLB cited a Feb. 14, 2020 memo that said “Clubs . . . can exceed the minimum scale at their discretion for non-first year players.”

The league argued “that clubs do, in fact, set their own salary scales and independently decide what to pay players,” wrote Judge Joseph Spero of the Northern District of California.

A settlement announcement in that case is expected soon. Advocates was co-founded by one of the lawyers representing minor league players in the case, Garrett Broshuis.

(Photo of Steve Cohen: Gregory Fisher / USA Today)

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