Like many of you, I read the Northwestern decision the other day, and like many of you I had questions of my own. If you want to see all of the legalities of the decision, and what it could possibly mean, make sure you read Moon’s piece from earlier this week:
I spent a good few years working in a Union shop, so when I read the decision, it immediately raised a bunch of questions for me. For those of you who have worked in a union shop before, some of this will seem very, very familiar. For those of you that haven’t ever had an experience with a union, it’s going to seem very strange. I won’t directly say which union I was a part of, but it is one of the most powerful ones in this country, and people associated with it have been known to come up missing. I worked in a factory and had several interactions with the union in my time there, not because I was bad at my job, but because that’s the way it is.
First, and foremost, the first question I had when I read that college athletes wanted to unionize was what about union dues? You see, everyone has to pay to be a part of the union. It’s not just a right that you get, and then they provide representation out of the kindness of their hearts. Union dues are how a lot of the unions make their money. I paid $25 every other paycheck, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but I was just a college kid working my way through college during the summer. So my real first question was, who pays the union dues? Are they going to expect a broke college kid to pay $50/month for union membership? Keep in mind, this is just an arbitrary number, they may pay less, they may pay more. Does it come out of their scholarship award?
I was only a “summer relief” employee, meaning that I worked during the summer months and I went back to school around September. The kicker was that when I returned the following spring to start working again, I was responsible to pay my back union dues. That’s right, the union kept a tab on what I would have owed in dues, and if I wanted to get my “Union card” back and be able to work, I had to pay them. There was no getting around it either, you paid, or you weren’t allowed in the plant. Do the math. Nine months at $50/month, that’s right $450 I had to pay my union before I started working again so that I could work. So does that mean that college football players will have to pay back dues every spring and fall from the off-season? It’s not much of a reach my friends. Just look at what the unions stand to make off of this if it happens. Let’s just say union dues are $50/month, and let’s just say they limit it to Division 1 football players on scholarship only, within the FBS schools. That’s 120 schools, at 85 scholarship players per year. The union stands to make $6.12 MILLION just off of the players and their dues. You can see why the labor unions are chomping at the bit to get this decision through. Unions are big business my friends.
There are a lot of other things that go with union shops, and I in no way claim to be an expert on these things but I have some experience. You see even though I paid my dues each month and was an employee of the company, I was a “temporary” employee. That meant that even though I was in the union, I had no rights to union protection. That’s right, they could fire me, and the union which I paid to protect me from unfair termination couldn’t do anything about it. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? It’s 100% true. So, that raised a ton of questions for me after this decision.
First, we’re not talking about union rights that are going to be in place so that players can file a grievance against the coach for making them do too many up/downs, or making them run 350′s in heat above 80 degrees. I don’t think that will ever be the case. Let’s assume for a minute that a coach suspends a player for “violating team rules”. Maybe a player fails a drug test. Maybe his grades aren’t quite what they should be. Does the union step in and undermine the coach’s decision? You wouldn’t think so, but that’s what unions do. I have seen people do things that were blatantly wrong and even unsafe, and keep their jobs. I have seen two grown men throwing down in the lunch room, and literally kicking the hell out of each other, committing assault, and keep their jobs after they were fired and had a “hearing”. There is literally so much money at stake in these instances that the union has that ability. Will they step in to save players that are caught up in autograph scandals, improper benefits and the like? (Johnny Football, O$U) I think that there will be so much of it, that it could ruin the sport. You may never even know, because any union/employee action is 100% confidential, unless the people involved talk in public about it. That’s a union member’s favorite past-time, bitching about the company and talking about how they “are out to get us.”
Each shift at my plant had a “Steward”, a representative for the workers. He or she was the one that brought your case to the higher-ups at the plant and was basically your lawyer in the Kangaroo court. So are there going to be individual player stewards? You would think there would be. In my experience, they always played both sides, never trying to upset the company, but trying to save somebody’s job. They didn’t want to stir up the waters too bad, so they played both sides… there could be a new contract coming soon. My biggest question was, will there be contracts and job descriptions? Because it’s not a union unless you can say “That’s not in my job description/contract”. Can you imagine?
“Get in there and return a punt”….”That’s not in my job description coach”… “You’re suspended”….”Im filing a grievance”…
What exactly doe the players hope to gain from unionizing? Contracts? Pay for Play? The right to negotiate the amount of training that they have to participate in? The ability to make money from their name? If you are a regular reader of the site, you know how I feel about some of these issues. Yes, I believe that a lot of people make a lot of money off of these kids, and they should have the right to some of it or outlaw it in every way shape and form. The sports memorabilia business is out of control. It makes me wonder what the real reason was for the players at Northwestern asking for the right to unionize. I wonder if someone “got in their ear” from a union and saw the money sitting there for the taking.
People have been asking “can the players strike? then what?” It’s a good question, but not one that is exactly rooted in reality. You see, there are plenty of unions out there that can’t strike, and probably wouldn’t if they could. The police, the firefighters, nurses, nuclear plant employees, etc. Some jobs just have it in their contracts that they can’t strike, in fact it can be straight up illegal. Here in Ohio, Firefighters and Police are prohibited from striking in a manner that denies public services. I suppose when they are off duty they could picket, but they cannot stop working.
I’m not saying that all unions are bad, there are some great benefits to being in one. Sometimes they keep jobs around so that good, hard-working people can make a good living. Sometimes they prevent large corporations from abusing workers and not providing safe work environments. But you also have to see it for what it is. Another business, that makes a metric shit-ton of money every year. They aren’t always failsafe, look at Detroit. If they were a be-all-end-all, Detroit would still be one of the richest and biggest cities in America. Money talks, bullshit runs the marathon my friends.