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Northwestern University and Michigan State University football players lined up against each other.
There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding today's union representation vote by Northwestern University football players—not just how the players will vote, but whether the National Labor Relations Board will uphold a regional decision that the players are employees eligible to unionize in the first place. One thing is certain, though, and that's the pressure Northwestern has applied to its football players to vote no:
The president emeritus publicly said that a vote for the union could mean the end of Division I sports at Northwestern. A former quarterback visited the team to encourage players to vote no. Coach Pat Fitzgerald, a former football star who is revered on campus, has framed a vote for the union as a personal betrayal. [...]

Players have heard warnings that the formation of a union would make it harder for them to land jobs after graduation; that Fitzgerald might leave; that alumni donations would dry up; that Northwestern’s planned $225 million athletic center could be scrapped.

All this pressure adds another piece of uncertainty to the mix: If the players' right to unionize is upheld but they vote no, would that result stand in an NLRB appeal?
While U.S. labor law grants companies broad discretion to campaign against unionization, compel employees to attend anti-union meetings, and make dire predictions, ex-NLRB chair Liebman told Salon the published reports suggested “there would be probably adequate grounds” for the union to file charges against Northwestern, in the event of a defeat, arguing the university had violated the bans on making threats against voting “yes,” or promising benefits for voting “no.” Northwestern’s Cubbage told Salon the university had “followed [NLRB] procedures and all of the rules.”
Not only that, but, as part of the NLRB's review of whether the football players are employees who can join unions, the College Athletes Players Association is asking the board to reconsider the Bush-era decision that prevents graduate student teaching assistants at private universities from unionizing.

And amidst all this uncertainty, 76 football players who've faced intimidation and cajoling from their coach and their university are voting.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:16 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  While I hope that college football/basketball (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, Mannie, nellgwen, JeffW, sawgrass727

    players will deservedly receive financial compensation for the money they generate, it concerns me what may happen to the other, less appreciated sports. Especially women's sports.  Because of Title IX and college sports, young women have been excelling.  Our women's programs are have generated a generation of phenomenal basketball/hockey/swimmers, etc.... It concerns me, if eventually, all scholarship athletes are looked at as employees. I fear the greed of the Universities and the NCAA will force colleges to cry poor and destroy one of the more successful programs in America.  I think a union may help men's football/basketball players (at least the best players) and ignore or possibly hurt all other athletes (especially women) in other sports.

    •  If the football players join the union (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OrganicChemist, taffers, Mannie

      and are deemed employees doesn't that make them professional football players and disqualify them from playing college football?

      I think there are many important issues that need to be addressed for all college athletes, and particularly those in revenue producing sports. However, I think union membership, for college athletes, is fraught with peril.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 09:00:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, certainly if they are paid.... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, Mannie, LihTox, sawgrass727

        The moment that happens, then the only people  they will face on the field will be themselves in a series of endless scrimmages. Unless the NCAA is ruled against at the same time, I don't see how this ends well for them if they vote to unionize and then lobby to be paid more than the current scholarship/stipend structure allows.

        However, at one point, they seemed to claim that they were only after better care if they were injured - or some kind of insurance payout if they were. I don't know how the NCAA would deal with that. In any case, I'm sure if they do unionize, pay will have to come up. If they can't get a pay deal, then what would justify the union dues? Or are potential unions saying they will accept them on a pro bono basis?

        •  Paid (5+ / 0-)

          Every athlete that gets anything is paid - some of these scholarships are worth more than minimum wage for a full time job for a year. These guys better vote for the union now or their will be massive retaliation if they don't. The NCAA rules are designed to screw athletes to the point that they are slaves by another name. Most of the big athletic teams for basketball and football graduate a pathetic % and many of those in degrees that impress few employers.

          A paid wage like the students who work other work study job for the hours put in would be a more honest system and would have the dignity of work rather than the piles of cash that always seems to fall into the hands of a few 'special' athletes every time someone actually looks under a rock or two at the colleges.

          •  I agree with you... (0+ / 0-)

            on the pathetic graduation rates of football and basketball scholarship players. Too many that do get degrees get useless ones also as you indicated. I also agree about the appalling situation of coaches' pay. Our current basketball and football coaches make far more than our university president or even the President of the United States. That doesn't even include all the extra "goodies" that they get.

            A paid wage system similar to work study might be fair, but I think it would have to include all student athletes and I don't know where the money would come from if it was extended to include all of them.  

        •  That's what I've been thinking here (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sawgrass727, OrganicChemist, JrCrone

          And that's what's so disingenuous about Northwestern's protests.  A players' union is not going to make the sort of demands that will destroy athletics at Northwestern; that would completely defeat the purpose.  Nor are they going to demand paychecks if it means leaving the NCAA.

        •  I'm not sure how much you know about pro sports (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OrganicChemist, JrCrone

          Athletes make money. The best make the most; but the best raise the tides for all the boats, even the guys on the bench.

          Just like almost any union, too.

          These sports make so much money for the universities, their head coaches are usually the HIGHEST PAID PUBLIC OFFICIALS in their states! Million dollar salaries for coaches are common in Top 25 schools. But in pro sports, I've never seen the coach or the manager make MORE money than the stars on the team.

          This issue has been long ignored, but it's obviously come to a head for terrible reasons of injustice--to the student athletes. They are being ruthlessly exploited, and until now, have been completely helpless. Like most issues, it's been ignored so long, it's come to a head, and the end is progressing.

          "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

          by DaddyO on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 07:57:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Most college sports are no where near pro sports.. (0+ / 0-)

            Even the football and basketball teams. I agree that something is going to come to a head soon. I really don't see how college sports can continue as it is for much longer. The sad thing is that the football and basketball programs and all of their excess are going to ruin it for everyone else. I'm sure you know that only a very few schools have programs that make a profit or bring in big money. The general student population ends up paying a pretty hefty sports fee to support the whole operation at most schools - and they often get little to show for it if they aren't a participant.

            I don't really see unionization at the lesser schools or in lesser sports getting the students anything. There just isn't the money in it to provide additional monies or benefits. There is already a great tension between faculty and administration at many schools concerning the amount of money that goes into sports programs. If athletes start getting paid significant monies, then I think the faculty really will just shut the whole thing down.

            This really just applies to the top schools who have the money-making sports machines. Maybe the solution would be for the NCAA to just kick them out to do whatever they want to do and let them just play with each other. Then, the rest of the schools could get down to a more sane approach with their individual athletic programs.

            I think the NCAA coined the term "student-athlete". I can go along with that term for many of the participating students. On a lot of teams, the graduation percentage and GPA of the team members are higher that the student body as a whole. That is a good thing. However, in way to many of the money-making programs at the big schools, the participating "student-athletes" are nothing more than over-privileged paid illiterate thugs.

            •  I've worked with the student athletes (0+ / 0-)

              at the college town tutoring center. I had all those stereotypes and have to say....

              I had to abandon them in the case of my school, and my student athletes in attendance.

              I learned of truly onerous schedules and practices. You get hurt? Too bad. Bye bye scholarship. But, in the meantime you may not have gotten the courses you need to make the loss of the free ride money (which, of course, most athletes do NOT receive) because you had to try to create an education around mandatory meetings, mandatory work-out days in the weight room, mandatory film, etc etc etc.

              There are some borderline (and not so borderline) criminals that have found success on the pitch in the NCAA, no doubt. But the preponderance of these kids are trying to make their way and seize their opportunities, even though some may not have intellectual advantages, or the ability to work through not having tons and tons of glibness, strong analytical or writing skills, what have you. I'll tell you frankly--I was surprised. It was eye-opening to talk to these kids 15 years ago. By now, their status as chattel is probably even worse.

              We ignore their look for protection, the ability to carry on with an education in the event of injury, and their interest in organizing for their labor (yes, it surely is) at OUR OWN PERIL.

              This is a teaching moment. I understand all kinds of complications exist. However, ALL the athletes are at risk, not just the big male pro-sport training grounds. Male and female. Big sports and little sports.

              Disclosure: I was on the strike committee for my university's Grad Student unionization movement.

              Darling, you didn't use canned salmon, did you?

              by JrCrone on Sat Apr 26, 2014 at 12:42:05 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  I think what you will have is (0+ / 0-)

        essentially a minor league football team.
          They can still be called by their college team name and pay any licence fees but be totally untethered to the college.
         

        Well I'm just a tree, but if I were you I'd listen to your GHOST FRIEND! Howard-Big Bang Theory

        by nellgwen on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:33:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  THEY ARE A MINOR LEAGUE FOOTBALL TEAM (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nellgwen

          Sorry to shout. This is the essence of the issue, to me. And the same thing goes for the basketball players.

          Universities are these pro teams' FREE farm teams, and THAT is why, among many other reasons, that SOMEONE should pay them for their labor and their wealth value to the capital owners. Literally EVERYONE is making money off of their labor and talents except the damn players.

          Sanity came to the Olympics when they finally allowed pros to play. Sanity coming to this issue has been decades behind, and I'll give you one guess as to why the issue has not changed yet.

          Moneymoneymoneymoney. Money.

          "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

          by DaddyO on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 07:48:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  They changed the Olympics to allow pros to play (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JrCrone

        All they need to do to change the NCAA's rules is to CHANGE them. Exploitation is exploitation.

        "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

        by DaddyO on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:00:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But the NCAA isn't going to change their rules (0+ / 0-)

          any time soon and I think that if football players join a union, and are legally classified as employees, they will not be able to play college football. It would be a violation of NCAA rules.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:39:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Then the NCAA will just have to change (0+ / 0-)

            . . . their damn rules. This guise of "amateurism" is a self-serving fiction that allows colleges to make boatloads of money on the backs of unpaid players. NCAA rules were written to serve the interests of the NCAA & the colleges, not the athletes. During their season, players put in, on average, about 50 hours of work per week, including formal practice time, informal "voluntary" practices, training, etc. And while their sport is in season, they are prohibited from holding regular employment. In this system everyone gets rich but the ones doing the work. Their scholarships rarely cover the full cost of attending college, & they can be revoked on the coaches' or administrators' whim. In this system the players are absolutely powerless. It really perturbs me that so many people on a left-leaning site believe that is as it should be.

    •  roberts court (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mannie

      Roberts court will knock it down.

      That eternal smile is he knows he now can do what he wants for corp America and the rich. ie former corp lawyer

    •  If this happens Title IX gets trashed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib

      FB players account for 85 MENS scholarships.  Therefore by removing them from the student athlete rolls and making them EMPLOYEES, say goodbye to 85 WOMENS athletic scholarships (as most women's sports lose money)

      Note: I would NOT agree that is good, just stating a consequence of making FB players employees.  This is not to say I am anti-union, but to look at an issue, one must look at ALL the facts, even the ugly ones!

      And losing those women's scholarships would be an ugly fact as most all those women use those scholarships to get a REAL education!

      Never underestimate stupid. Stupid is how reTHUGlicans win!

      by Mannie on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:05:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Reductio ad Absurdum warning. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaddyO

      When I read the NY Times article, one official was telling the team members something like would you rather put your trust in someone who knows you, or someone from far away who may not have your interest at heart?

      When I read that, I thought how it would sound if Simon Legree said that to Uncle Tom: would you rather trust a slave driver who knows you or an abolitionist who might not have your interest at heart?

      If Northwestern was serious about respecting STUDENT athletes, they would show the same respect as they would for an Economics or History studeint working on labor relations. If they would ask that student the same question, it shows that they don't appreciate their student students any better. So what kind of people attend Northwestern?

      Freedom's just another word for not enough to eat. --Paul Krugman's characterization of conservative attitudes.

      by Judge Moonbox on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:16:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't understand this worry (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JrCrone

      The money we're talking about is only second to tuition and endowments. There's plenty to go around.

      Set up the rules. Pay the kids who are making the most money for the university. Don't pay the women who aren't making the university any money. But let them play, and let them get scholarships. Don't tear up Title IX; FIX it.

      The more posts I read in this thread, the more they sound like Republicans talking about how much we CAN'T afford as a country. The only reason this issue is about injustice is that these universities are literally making BILLIONS off of FREE LABOR. Billions with a B, baby. Fix it. Fix it fairly.

      Or have we simply forgotten that fixing it is an option in George W. Bush's America today?

      "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

      by DaddyO on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:04:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here's my theory. Northwestern will delay the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    walk2live, Mannie

    process for years with appeals.

    If they finally lose, they'll claim the vote is invalid because most or all of the players who voted for the union are no longer at school.

  •  However, a prominent alumni group at NU has also (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BMScott, allergywoman, Mannie, nellgwen, JeffW

    stated that even if the vote is no, the problems are still there and desperately need to be addressed.

    Here's hoping that they are addressed, no matter the outcome of the vote.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:43:01 AM PDT

    •  Sounds like they're asking the kids to TRUST them (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JrCrone

      Oh, yeah, you can TRUST the university, the alums, those in power...to keep these athlete's interests at heart...

      ...at the BOTTOM of their heartless hearts...

      When the NFL union folded, it cost the players. When the MLB union broke the 1994-95 strike, it PROFITED the players. The only idea to remember is this: United we stand, divided we BEG.

      "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

      by DaddyO on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 07:43:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As much as I like sports, especially football, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coquiero, nellgwen

    I'm really getting sick of the greed. The team owners will eventually price themselves out of the market.

  •  Good luck, kids. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deepeco, ichibon, Mannie, nellgwen, ranton

    Whatever happens as a result of this vote today, I hope you actually end up being treated more fairly by your university as a result, not being continually milked as cash cows with little regard for your health and well-being.

  •  me thinks thou dost protest too much (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ranton
  •  A question on all of this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nellgwen, Judge Moonbox
    Players have heard warnings that the formation of a union would make it harder for them to land jobs after graduation; that Fitzgerald might leave; that alumni donations would dry up; that Northwestern’s planned $225 million athletic center could be scrapped.
    Thinking about the above

    and now

    While U.S. labor law grants companies broad discretion to campaign against unionization, compel employees to attend anti-union meetings, and make dire predictions, ex-NLRB chair Liebman told Salon the published reports suggested “there would be probably adequate grounds” for the union to file charges against Northwestern, in the event of a defeat, arguing the university had violated the bans on making threats against voting “yes,” or promising benefits for voting “no.” Northwestern’s Cubbage told Salon the university had “followed [NLRB] procedures and all of the rules.”
    Is it a threat to state the consequences of voting yes?

    As ruling student-athletes ARE employees, THEN you have just totally scrapped the student-athlete idea.  Once this is done, there ARE ripple effects.

    Is stating these ripple effects a threat?

    I am asking as this would seem to be a pretty gray area.

    1) Players have heard warnings that the formation of a union would make it harder for them to land jobs after graduation --- I would call that a pure threat. (But sadly also reality as many employers if they even HEAR the word union look to get rid of people)

    2) that Fitzgerald might leave --- A coach bailing after a bombshell like this? I can't call that a threat. Coaches have left DI FB for far less reasons (and more money)

    3) that alumni donations would dry up -- Alumni do NOT have to give, and trash the current sports system, I could see many of them give up donating -- NOT a threat, just a consequence

    4) that Northwestern’s planned $225 million athletic center could be scrapped. -- Tied to athletic donations -- NOT a threat

    Never underestimate stupid. Stupid is how reTHUGlicans win!

    by Mannie on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 06:02:32 PM PDT

  •  Votes have been impounded, uncounted... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JrCrone

    ...and the players have clammed up, as of late this afternoon.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 07:02:28 PM PDT

  •  Intimidation? (0+ / 0-)

    That's 'conservative' FREE SPEECH, baby. Our Overlords know what's best for ALL of us.

    They learned everything they know from 70s New York loan sharks and the good old USA Mafia. Learned it well. Even made it legal.

    "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

    by DaddyO on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 07:39:29 PM PDT

  •  The plutocracy will pretend to be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DaddyO

    nice to you until you demand to be paid what you're worth; only then will they drop the facade.

    I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

    by CFAmick on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:27:54 PM PDT

    •  This issue has entirely too much in common (0+ / 0-)

      ...with the issue of free internships. And it deserves the same damned solutions. PAY people who WORK. Anything else only deserves to be called what it is: Slavery or indentured servitude. Both of which are usually abhorred, except in CERTAIN circumstances like these, but these are extreme times we live in today in this country.

      And overpriced scholarships are not payment! Tuition is presently a bubble crisis. These athletes are the only reason most Americans are even aware of the names of the universities they play for. Sports is very profitable for them, and paying the athletes a tenth of a percent of what they EARN for the universities can be called many things: Wage theft is a good start.

      Why do so many athletes skip their education to make the big money? Why shouldn't the universities pay them what they would make in the private sector? Because they really don't care if they get an education. If they did, they'd pay them, AND educate them. But there is a line of talent behind them just waiting for their chance.

      "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

      by DaddyO on Fri Apr 25, 2014 at 08:36:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If Northwestern were to drop sports ... (0+ / 0-)

    … it would at least solve a problem for the mathematically challenged Big 10, which illogically has 11 member schools. … Just saying'.

    I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people's accomplishments; the front page has nothing but man's failures. ~Earl Warren 14th Chief Justice of the United States (1953–1969)

    by Road to1 Escondido on Sat Apr 26, 2014 at 07:48:05 AM PDT

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