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Washington, DC (KROC-AM News) - Minnesota Senator Tina Smith is blasting Major League Baseball over a decision that is causing one of the largest employers in a small southeastern Minnesota town to shut down.

The second term Democrat has made public a letter she has sent to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred that expresses her outrage over the upcoming closure of the Miken Sports manufacturing plant in Caledonia due to the loss of its contract to produce baseball helmets for MLB players and other products. The closing of the facility in Houston County is expected to eliminate about 80 jobs.

Photo provided by Tina Smith Campaign
Photo provided by Tina Smith Campaign

In her letter, which urges the baseball league to reverse the decision, Senator Smith points out the billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded subsidies that have been used to build Major League ballparks and the federal antitrust exemption that has long benefited the organization. Smith argues that with that investment, Americans should be able to count on MLB to "at a minimum, avoid being complicit in the offshoring of U.S. jobs to China."

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You can read Senator Smith's full letter to the MLB below:

Dear Commissioner Manfred, Mr. Seidler, Mr. Seidler, and Mr. Kutsenda,

I write to express my outrage and concern about the impending closure ofMiken Sports Caledonia, Minnesota facility. The Caledonia plant produces baseball helmets for Major league baseball (MLB) players, as well as non-wood bats for a variety of baseball and softball leagues. The facility closure is expected to cause the layoffs of about 80 workers and the elimination of one of the largest employers in the small, rural city of Caledonia. Caledonia has a population of about 2,800 and will face significant hardship from the loss of Miken's jobs and community contributions. Adding to my outrage is the fact that you will reportedly be moving Miken's bat production to China, which flies in the face of MLB's status as an iconic American sports league. I strongly urge you to reverse the planned closure of the Miken Sports production facility in Caledonia and instead commit to making long-term investments in the plant.

Major League Baseball and its teams, including the San Diego Padres, have benefitted from billions of dollars in state and local stadium subsidies, as well as federal tax breaks on stadium bonds. Further, MLB has long benefitted from an exemption from federal anti-trust law, and recently lobbied for a special carve-out from federal overtime rules that was ultimately tucked in a 2018 government funding bill. In exchange for these taxpayer-funded benefits and special exemptions, Americans should be able to count on MLB to, at a minimum, avoid being complicit in the offshoring of U.S. jobs to China. Unfortunately, MLB, in concert with Seidler Equity Partners, appears to be more focused on its bottom line than on honoring any commitments to American workers.

The closure of the Miken manufacturing plant will leave the Caledonia community without a key employer and economic contributor. Further, it will erase a key point of pride for the local community, who are proud of Miken's role producing the helmets that have been used by MLB players to stay safe for years. Despite the dedication of Milken's workers, you are closing the Caledonia plant in an apparent effort to squeeze an extra $4 million to $10 million in profit from your recent acquisition of another equipment manufacturer, Easton Diamond Sports, by offshoring bat production from Caledonia to Easton's factory in China. This type of transaction, in which wealthy private equity investors buy longstanding U.S. companies only to shut down American plants and move jobs overseas has left countless Midwest communities devastated while wealthy private equity investors - disconnected from the effects of their profit-driven decisions - reap a larger and larger share of our country's income and wealth. It's time that this practice comes to an end.

Americans should be outraged by your decision to close Miken's Caledonia baseball and softball equipment plant and move jobs to China. I urge you to promptly reverse this action.

Tina Smith
United States Senator

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