A group of Minor League baseball players who are suing Major League Baseball over how baseball pays its minor leaguers has asked a judge to force the Chicago White Sox, as well as seven other MLB franchises, to turn over a number of documents related to how minor leaguers work, train, travel and are paid.
On Friday, Aug. 7, attorneys representing a class of 43 former Minor League baseball players, represented by Aaron Senne, a retired Minor League player who last played in the Miami Marlins system, filed suit in federal court in Chicago against the White Sox, asking a judge to intervene as they allege the Sox steadfastly have refused to turn over a range of documents subpoenaed by the Minor League players.
The action in Chicago’s federal court stems from a potential class action filed by the minor leaguers in 2014 in federal court in San Francisco against MLB, most of its member ballclubs and former MLB commissioner Bud Selig.
The players are being represented in that case and the related actions by attorneys with the firm of Pearson, Simon & Warshaw LLP, in San Francisco and Sherman Oaks, Calif., and with the firm of Korein Tillery LLC, of St. Louis and Chicago.
In the original case, the players allege they have been underpaid by the leagues and the professional ballclubs which held their contracts. Specifically, they allege the $7,500 or less they were paid per season in the Minor Leagues, which they said routinely included more than 50 hours of work per week, including games, training sessions and travel, ran afoul of state and federal laws requiring minimum wages and overtime.
In May, a federal judge granted the request of eight teams – the White Sox, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians – to get a free pass from the case, citing a lack of personal jurisdiction in dismissing the case without prejudice.
However, the players assert the action did not remove any of the plaintiffs from the case, meaning there are still players who played in those MLB clubs’ minor league system remaining as plaintiffs.
“They still have live claims for the work performed on behalf of the dismissed franchises - including the White Sox - against MLB and Mr. Selig,” the motion states. “Thus, even though some of the MLB franchises have been dismissed, plaintiffs still require documents from the White Sox and the other dismissed franchises because work performed on behalf of the White Sox and the other dismissed franchises remains at issue.”
In all, the plaintiffs’ subpoena includes 40 requests for documents, including Minor League game, training and travel schedules; MLB teams’ employment policies and “contract addenda;” MLB wage schedules and other documents pertaining to player compensation; policies on player scouting, drafting, development and discipline; and documents pertaining to player housing and other benefits; and actual player pay stubs, among others.
The players served all teams with requests for those documents in November 2014, but agreed to place discovery on hold pending review of the request by 11 ballclubs to dismiss the case on personal jurisdiction grounds.
However, in the months since the White Sox and others were dismissed from the case, the players assert those franchises have stubbornly refused their requests for the documents.
“They refuse to produce a single document, and their responses all contain the same boilerplate objections to each request,” the players state in a memorandum accompanying their motion.
“From the time plaintiffs attempted to serve these subpoenas, the dismissed franchises have engaged in improper gamesmanship that has delayed the production of documents and threatens to undermine the schedule in the underlying action,” the players wrote.
They asked the court to transfer the enforcement matter to the federal court in northern California, or order the White Sox to “compel the production of the documents requested in the subpoena within 30 days.”