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MLB All-Star Weekend

Workers Sue

Pay Us In Cash, Not Tchotchkes

8/7/2013 8:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF


Major League Baseball put roughly 2,000 people to work during All-Star weekend in NYC last month and illegally paid them with giveaway items like shirts and hats INSTEAD of cash, so says a new lawsuit.

One of the "volunteers" who worked the event has filed the suit against MLB -- claiming the organization broke the law by failing to pay the "volunteers" actual wages for doing real jobs.

In the suit, John Chen says he worked 17 hours in 4 days at the All-Star Weekend festival -- doing everything from stamping wrists to stuffing flyers into bags and even filing paperwork ... all assignments that would otherwise have to be done by paid employees.

Chen says at the end of the event, he was compensated with a shirt, cap, cinch drawstring backpack, free admission to the FanFest for himself and a guest, a water bottle and a baseball.

Basically, Chen believes the concept of a "volunteer" workforce violates federal and state labor laws -- and the "volunteers" should be paid at least minimum wage ... which, in NY, is $7.25 per hour.

Furthermore, Chen points out that MLB made a killing during the event -- charging $35 per adult ticket, $5 for a bag of chips and $7.50 for lemonade.

Chen is seeking a judgement forcing MLB to end the volunteer work program ASAP -- and pay volunteers who worked at FanFest events dating back to the 2007 All-Star Weekend.

Chen released a statement saying, "I very much enjoyed working at FanFest, but the minimum wage laws are important. People who cannot afford to work for free should be able to have the same experience I had."

A rep for MLB tells us, “We don’t comment on pending litigations."


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Previous 15 Comments | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5


Stupid law suit. It was a "volunteer" position you dork. Of course they are not going to pay you in dollars. I volunteered this event before and didn't get "paid" cuz it was VOLUNTEERING my time!!! I hope the judge throws it out and makes the guy pay for the frivolousness of the suit.

385 days ago


Good try John Chen but thousands of events run on volunteers and can't afford to pay. The whole concept is based on doing the work because you believe in the cause or your believe in the charity. Is everyone out to make a buck?

385 days ago


Just when I tonight human beings couldn't get stupider. Lol.

385 days ago


This volunteer can't do the math. I added up the things he was given and it adds up to over $130 vs. a min wage for his 17.5 hours which is $123 which, after taxes, is roughly $104! THAT volunteer needs to get a job as a door stop at a library!

385 days ago


If anything, I'm more upset that he got the backpack. When I volunteered for the FanFest in St Louis in 09, I got a fanny pack. I would have killed to not have to wear that thing around all day. This guy is dumb. You sign a contract verifying that you understand it is unpaid work.

385 days ago

Intern Justice    

It is against the law for a company to allow an individual to volunteer for a for-profit company. For- profit companies must pay their workers at least minimum wage, even if a worker agrees to "volunteer." This has been the law on the books since 1938 with the passing of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Filing a lawsuit is one of the only ways to enforce the laws on the books. I commend this plaintiff for stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing for workers nationwide. http://internjustice.com/2013/07/15/unpaid-intern-rights-filing-a-lawsuit-for-back-wages-is-a-strong-way-to-end-exploitation/

385 days ago

Justin M. Swartz    

My name is Justin M. Swartz (www.outtengolden.com/lawyer-attorney/justin-m-swartz). I am the lead lawyer representing the plaintiff in the case against Major League Baseball on behalf of All-Star FanFest volunteers. I see that some people have expressed their disagreement with the claims in this lawsuit. I want to take a minute to explain our thinking. My firm, Outten & Golden LLP, filed this case against Major League Baseball and several other cases against companies that have employed unpaid interns (Fox Searchlight, Hearst, Conde Nast, Charlie Rose, NBCUniversal) not just for the small amount of money our clients are owed, but because the minimum wage laws are important.
As an initial matter, the proper focus is on the company soliciting and accepting free work, not on the individuals who volunteer their time. According to a United States Department of Labor fact sheet, the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits private-sector for-profit companies from accepting free work. Minimum wage laws require all private sector for–profit employers to pay at least the minimum wage for all work that they “suffer or permit.” See 29 U.S.C. § 203(g); N.Y. Lab. Law § 2(7); Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., No. 11 Civ. 6784, 2013 WL 2495140 (S.D.N.Y. June 11, 2013) (unpaid interns found to be “employees”). Minimum wage laws exist to eliminate “labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers.” 29 U.S.C. § 202. By failing to pay for productive work, companies deny federal, state, and local governments significant tax revenue and deny the workers important benefits of working, including workers’ compensation insurance, social security contributions, and, most importantly, the ability to earn a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. Critically, unpaid jobs exclude people who cannot afford to work for free.
Unpaid private-sector jobs also damage the labor market and are a detriment to society. See, e.g., Ross Perlin, Intern Nation: How To Earn Nothing And Learn Little In The Brave New Economy, Verso Publishers (2012). As for-profit companies hire more unpaid workers, they hire fewer paid workers, especially entry-level workers. See David L. Gregory, The Problematic Employment Dynamics of Student Internships, 12 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol’y 227, 242 (1998). Reliance on unpaid labor leads to “an ideal system for perpetuating and increasing inequality” among the economically advantaged and disadvantaged jobseekers. Unpaid jobs “depress[] wages by creating an oversupply of people willing to work not just for low wages, but literally for nothing.” They also “undermine the meritocracy that allocates jobs and rewards people for their skills and gumption.” http://www.epi.org/blog/unpaid-internships-scourge-labor-market/
I hope that this provides some useful information and helps open-minded people see our case in a different light.

385 days ago


huh this guy ges an attorney to take his case because he volunteered and didn't get paid????
and I cant find one to take my case, because I worked at Citifield and got fired for something I DID NOT DO and the suite owner even said I DID NOTHING!!
the company changed the reason for firing me 3 times and my union said don"t worry there will be arbitration...and now they say no arbitration..
like WTF????
hey Chen who is your attorney???

385 days ago


huh...this guy gets an attorney to take his case when he was a volunteer???
like WTH....I worked at Citifield and Shea...was fired for something I DID NOT DO......the compnay not only changed the reason for termination 3 times...but also had no solid proof (because there was nothing I did wrong) also bypassed the union rule of warning....suspension...termination..
they went right to termination...and then the union said don't worry there will be arbitration...and then 8 months later told me arbitration went out the window...and I can't get an attorney to take my case???
I just don't get it...
hey Chen who is your attorney??

384 days ago


Dude worked 17 hours and says he wants minimum wage. That's $123.25 for his time worked. Look at the free admission over the time of the event and that totals $175 for the 5 days. Throw in the free goodies and I think he made out just fine.

384 days ago


There are NO minimum wages for VOLUNTEERS you idiot!!! This kind of thing just makes me crazy. EVERYBODY is out for a free payday these days, and the attorneys are taking on all of these frivolous lawsuits because THEY don't care, they get paid whether the idiot wins or loses.

384 days ago


This is why when bills are introduced to protect the courts and others from frivolous suits, they never make it, because the law firms would go broke if not for frivolous crap. I have worked for law firms in the accounting area for years, and there was a picture in the break room of one of them that says it all. It was a picture of a cow with a farmer pulling on its head, another farmer pulling on it's tail, and the attorney sitting there on a stool milking the cow for all it was worth. THAT is what a suit like THIS is about! We spent over $15,000 last year on our Ford which has since gone into a class action over the motor being bad. As a plaintiff, we stand to get whatever our portion of $150,000 would be NOW HEAR THIS the attorneys in this case? ARE YOU READING? They are getting THIRTEEN MILLION. What does THAT tell you?

384 days ago

Intern Justice    

We blogged about this lawsuit here. I urge all of the readers who are skeptical about this lawsuit to read the blog before making an assumption that this is a frivolous lawsuit. http://internjustice.com/2013/08/08/unpaid-volunteer-intern-for-major-league-baseball-mlb-files-flsa-lawsuit/

384 days ago
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