MLB Volunteers Didn’t Come for Crackerjacks

           MANHATTAN (CN) – In a class action, a Queens man volunteered for Major League Baseball claims that the $7 billion business should pay for such work with cash instead of fanny packs.
     John Chen of Rego Park says he was one of 2,000 volunteers MLB used to staff events around New York City during its 2013 All-Star Week, including its All-Star FanFest. The events brought $191 million into the city, according to the complaint filed Monday in New York County Supreme Court.
     It’s “a lucrative for-profit commercial operation that MLB promoted as ‘the largest interactive baseball theme park in the world,’ and described as ‘baseball heaven on earth,'” but it was “almost entirely with unpaid volunteers,” the 28-page complaint states.
     “None of these millions of dollars, however, ended up in the pockets of the New Yorkers whom MLB recruited to provide the labor necessary to prepare for and run FunFest and other All-Star Week events,” Chen says.
     An MLB spokesman declined to comment Wednesday.
     Greeters, hospitality staff, hotel workers, ticket takers and transportation workers were also used as volunteers to staff other events around the city, including a 5K race, concert, fantasy camp and parade, Chen says. MLB additionally used volunteers as pre-game rehearsal stand-ins, to prepare welcome baskets, assist with transportation, direct customers to the subways and provide information at various sites around the city, according to the complaint.
     Chen says MLB began recruiting volunteers for the July 2013 All Star Week as early as October 2012, and ultimately got 2,000 volunteers to “represent New York by welcoming … guests (in other words, paying customers) from around the world and assisting in the smooth operations of the [All-Star] events.”
     FanFest charged adults $35 and children $30 to enter FanFan Fest, which took in thousands from thousands of adults and children between July 12 and July 16, according to the complaint.
     But “instead of paying volunteers cash wages for their work, MLB, the world’s preeminent professional baseball league with annual revenue of more than seven billion dollars, provided these volunteers with, among other things, a ‘shirt, a cap and a cinch drawstring backpack,'” as well as free admission for the volunteer and a guest to Fan Fest, Chen says.
     Volunteers were also given a water bottle, a baseball and a lanyard, the lawsuit states.
     Back when New York hosted the FanFest in 2008, volunteers got a fanny pack, along with their tickets and baseball, according to the complaint.
     Chen’s complaint also describes the work of “Green Team” volunteers whom MLB used to collect used beer cups and other recyclable used food containers from fans. In exchange for their help with garbage and recycling, this fleet received free admission to games and T-shirts, “but no cash wages,” Chen says.
     “MLB’s failure to pay its volunteers any wages violated federal and state minimum wage laws, which require employees to pay at least the minimum wage for all work that they ‘suffer or permit,'” the complaint states.
     He added: “Unpaid private-sector jobs damage the labor market and are a detriment to society. As for-profit companies hire more unpaid workers, they hire fewer paid workers, especially entry-level workers.”
     Named as defendants are Major League Baseball Properties, the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and MLB.
     The class wants to stop MLB from soliciting and using unpaid workers and to recover unpaid wages.
     It is represented by Justin Swartz with Outten Golden.

%d bloggers like this: