MLB fan balk$ at no-pay job – Suit seeks back pay for MLB volunteers after profitable ‘All-Star FanFest’ used 2,000 unpaid staffers at 5-day event

New York Post Rich Calder
August 8, 2013

You’d think a $7-billion-a-year industry, built on the backs of fans who shell out hundreds a game for tickets, could afford to pay workers to staff a fan festival at one of its biggest attractions.

That’s the argument being made by a Queens man, who filed suit against Major League Baseball yesterday saying he should be paid for the work he did as one of 2,000 volunteers who staffed last month’s All-Star Game FanFest at the Javits Center.

The class-action suit, filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court on behalf of John Chen, of Rego Park, seeks lost wages for the 17 hours he worked at the July 12-16 event publicized as baseball heaven on Earth. ”

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I very much enjoyed working FanFest, but the minimum-wage laws are important, ” Chen said. People who cannot afford to work for free should be able to have the same experience I had. ”

The suit could also leave the National Football League open to legal action over events tied to the upcoming New York-New Jersey Super Bowl. The $9-billion-plus money machine is actively seeking 15,000 to 20,000 volunteers ” to meet and greet football fans during the week of festivities in New York and New Jersey leading up to the big game at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2.

The NFL should be careful of having unpaid volunteers perform the type of work that other companies have to pay for, ” Justin Swartz, a lawyer handling the MLB suit, told The Post. Someone could throw a flag on them. ”

The suit also seeks a court order to stop MLB from soliciting future work from unpaid volunteers and alleges the league also violated labor laws with similar practices at previous All-Star FanFests.

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Like the NFL, MLB required its volunteers to pass background checks.

The FanFest volunteers didn’t receive tickets to the All-Star Game at Citi Field only a shirt, cap, backpack, water bottle, baseball, and a chance to win one pair of tickets through a raffle. And, as Post columnist Phil Mushnick reported last month, MLB refused to even reimburse them for Javits Center parking.

Meanwhile, adults attending the event where fan volunteers were directed to give out gift bags and direct attendees to attractions, among other chores had to fork over $35 to enter while children paid $30. Once inside, prices ranged from $5 for a small bag ” of potato chips to $7.50 for lemonade, the suit says.