Cubs MLPBA rep Ian Happ weighs in on push to unionize minor-leaguers
The MLBPA announced it launched a campaign to unionize minor-league players after receiving “overwhelming support” from its executive board Sunday.
TORONTO — Ian Happ, the Cubs’ player rep, sees the slashing of minor-league teams and draft rounds in recent years as part of the impetus for the push to unionize minor-leaguers.
“That’s when you kind of say, ‘OK, if some of these changes are going to be made unilaterally and without any control and no oversight, something has to be done to make sure that it isn’t a continuation in very quick order,’ ’’ he said. “And that was probably, from a player standpoint, at least from mine, probably one of the most important things.”
The MLB Players Association announced it had launched a campaign to unionize minor-league players after receiving “overwhelming support” from its executive board Sunday.
It will be a long process, and the push is in its early stages, starting with a card sent out to minor-leaguers to vote on designating the MLBPA as their collective-bargaining representative.
If at least 30% of the players sign the authorization cards, the National Labor Relations Board will conduct an election. Then with a majority “yes” vote, the NLRB would require MLB to recognize the union. Alternatively, the MLBPA could seek voluntary recognition.
“It’s such a complicated topic,” Happ said. “Because for these guys in the minor leagues, you want them to have better compensation, better work environments. And the biggest part is just having them be able to have a voice in what that looks like and the construction of that.”
Happ said the hope is for the major-league and minor-league union groups to function as unique entities with separate collective-bargaining agreements. And the big-leaguers will lend support.
Of course, many of the issues that affect one group also will affect the other. Like Happ said, it’s complicated.
“The group is as together as we’ve ever been,” Happ said of the players. “I think we understand, as the game has trended for the last six years, that there’s more power in looking out for the guys that have less of a voice. And there’s more power in getting guys paid younger and being a little bit selfless on the back end and what that means for future generations.”
That was clear in the last round of collective bargaining between MLB and the players’ union.
“There’s just a lot of consideration right now, as the game is changing so rapidly, as club behaviors change so rapidly, to really care about the future of the game and the next generation of players,” Happ said. “And that’s been a huge focus.”
The Cubs hope to send veteran left-hander Wade Miley (strained left shoulder) to High-A South Bend this week on a rehab assignment. It has been two weeks since Miley’s last rehab start. The Cubs paused his progression because of a slow recovery from a 75-pitch outing in Triple-A Iowa.
Right-hander Keegan Thompson (tight lower back) is continuing with his bullpen regimen. If all goes to plan, he’ll start throwing live batting practice in a week to 10 days.
“He’s been feeling great,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy said. “Coming off the last bullpen [session Saturday] and the catch play he’s had, the workouts that he needs to do, I think he’s progressing the right way.”