St. Paul Saints players' salaries up for debate at the Capitol

March 29, 2019 06:19 PM

The St. Paul Saints take the field for the first time this season in May. Ahead of the first pitch, lawmakers are discussing players' salaries.

Executive Vice President Tom Whaley was at the Capitol earlier this week urging lawmakers to exempt them from the state's overtime and minimum wage laws. The city exempted players from its minimum wage hike in November, following a similar decision in Washington last year.

"There's not a lot of things in life, love and politics where Mayor Melvin Carter and President Trump agree on things but they agreed on this," said Whaley.

The request is rooted in how the league operates. There are 12 teams in cities ranging in size from Sioux City to Chicago. To keep the teams competitive, the league set a payroll cap. Each team can spend a maximum of $125,000 on salaries. The players each negotiates a contract with their team. 

Whaley said the average salary for the 22 players on the Saints' roster is $1,700 a month.

"They don't count their hours," he said.

If the team had to pay the state minimum wage and overtime, Whaley told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they would exceed the league's limit. The penalty could be fines or exclusion from the postseason, or worse.

RELATED: St. Paul passes $15 minimum wage

"They will be forced out of their league if something like this doesn't pass," said Rep. Tim Mahoney.

He wrote the bill supporting the exemption.

The league would also be forced out of a stadium the city and state spent more than $50 million on.

"This bill would also set a troubling precedent," said Bill McCarthy, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. "All working people deserve to earn at least the minimum wage in the communities where they work."

There are some occupations that are exempt from minimum wage ordinances in Minnesota:

Whaley responded at Wednesday's committee hearing by saying, "we would hope as an organization like the Saints that our effort before you is in no way construed as unfriendly to organized labor or workers." 

The league defers to federal law, so every player on the team is under contract-- and they are salaried.

The Saints tell KSTP the only way the state law would really come up is if there was a lawsuit. The bill was passed through committee.

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Callan Gray

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