A lawsuit filed Wednesday on behalf of a volunteer at last month’s 2013 All-Star FanFest claims Major League Baseball violated federal and state minimum wage laws by failing to pay more than 2,000 volunteers.
The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court was brought in the name of John Chen and seeks class-action status. It asks for lost wages and urges a judge to order the league to stop soliciting and accepting work from unpaid volunteers.
Matt Bourne, an MLB spokesman, said the league hadn’t received a copy of the lawsuit yet and doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
According to the lawsuit, federal and state minimum wage laws were violated when the league recruited volunteers to operate 40 attractions from July 12 to July 16 at an event advertised as "the largest interactive baseball theme park in the world" and "baseball heaven on earth."
Volunteers to the festival, which charged adult attendees $35 and children age 2 and older $30, were given a shirt, a cap, a cinch drawstring backpack, free admission for the volunteer and one guest along with a water bottle and a baseball, the lawsuit said. It added that paying customers could buy a small bag of potato chips for $5 and a cup of lemonade for $7.50 once they entered the convention center where it was held.
The volunteers did not receive All-Star Game admission, but were given a chance to win one pair of tickets if they worked three shifts at any of the All-Star events, the lawsuit said. It added that all of baseball’s unpaid volunteers from 2008 through this year were required to pass background checks and attend a mandatory orientation.
The lawsuit noted that Major League Baseball boasted that the 2013 All-Star Game and related events including FanFest had generated about $191.5 million for the New York City economy.
"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 FanFest and other All-Star Game events," the lawsuit said.
Chen volunteered for five days, joining others who assisted with hospitality, logistics and transportation, among other tasks, his lawyers said. They said the league has already invited this year’s volunteers to work for free at the 2014 All-Star Game in Minneapolis.