Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

April 4, 2014

Morgan: A union for college athletes just doesn't make sense

Corsicana — The football team at Northwestern University is now unionized. The move toward collective bargaining was approved by the Chicago Labor Relations Board.

There are two significant facts about that approval. Number one was that it was the “Chicago” Labor Relations Board. Chicago is run by unions. And, number two is that it was the Labor Relations Board.

The Labor Relations Board is dependent on the existence of unions for their existence. So, when asked if someone can unionize, the answer is DUH!

The push for a unionized football team in the Chicago suburb was initiated by the United Steelworkers’ Union. Why would the steelworkers be interested in advancing a union for a collegiate football team?

Do they think some of the players might be drafted by Pittsburgh? Over the past 20 plus years, union membership in this country has dropped from 16% down to 9%.

Unions are hurting which means the union’s political influence is waning. Growing any union is good for all unions.

So, are these players being exploited? Should they be paid for their efforts since the university is making money from the football season? Or, are they being paid already? Let’s start with the value of an education at Northwestern. In terms of strictly the cost of attending the Big Ten school, the annual tuition for 2013 was $43,380. If a player graduates in four years, they have been given $173,520 in education cost. That’s without even figuring in books, meals and room. So, are they going to bargain for spending money so they don’t have to shake hands with wealthy alumnus after a game(wink wink)?

My experience with unions has been minimal. Teachers in Texas do not have unions.

 I belonged to the Texas State Teachers Association for my first three years in the profession. After a vote failed in an attempt to merge with the National Education Association, and a new vote took place within three months, I dropped my TSTA membership. The NEA was as close to a union as I ever wanted to be.

In states that do have teachers unions, you see where members who are incompetent are protected by the union.

 In New York, they have convicted sex offenders who sit in “rubber rooms” while still drawing a paycheck. I would then assume that a player who can’t play would be entitled to keep his scholarship. In fact, they might force the coach to play him for a certain percentage of time.

Have you ever heard of featherbedding? As an example, in the railroad industry, when the technology went from coal fired steam engines to diesel fueled engines, the union refused to let the companies do away with the position of fireman, the guy who shoveled coal into the engine. So, if a team goes to a spread offense like almost everyone in the Big Twelve, would the union force them to keep a fullback even if he never played?

If a game goes into overtime, would the players demand time and a half? If a player is summoned to go into a game, could he refuse because it interferes with his 15 minute afternoon break guaranteed by the contract?

What if this unionization spills over into basketball? Could a future NBA player who has eight kids by six women demand a three day maternity leave for each child born, as is guaranteed in the major league collective bargaining agreement? If that’s the case, some college hoop seasons could be awfully short. March Madness could turn into Baby Momma Madness.

If SEIU workers decide to strike and picket college stadiums, would the players cross the picket line out of sympathy for their brothers in labor? “No justice, no popcorn.”

I feel for all those exploited college players. They get a free high dollar education … Let me rephrase that. They get an opportunity to get a fine education, although if you listen to a lot of them, many forgo that opportunity. Many exploit the experience to serve as a training ground for an NFL career.

Most find career networking opportunities among influential alumni even if they don’t play professionally. And the sorority ladies … well, that’s another story.

Perhaps we should just drop the charade. Maybe each college should give the players a choice: the education or the cash. It would cost the university the same amount, and it would tell you a lot about the foresight of the prospect. Make a lot now, or a lot more later?

Hmmm … I wonder if the Chicago Labor Relations Board bothered to mention the term “union dues” to these guys? I’ll bet not. Discovering that the right to organize isn’t cheap, might change their view.

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