As the NY Times reports, there’s continuing resistance to Northwestern football players’ proposed unionization.  And it’s more of the same old, same old combination of, on the one hand, dividing workers, and on the other, suggesting that management is nice and has the employees’ best interests at heart.

Two lines of argument are particularly dismaying in the Northwestern issue: one, the claim that if football players unionized, it would be the end of women’s sports at Northwestern (as though Title IX would disappear).  This is a typical page of the anti-union playbook, pitting the most vulnerable against each other rather than promoting solidarity.  This claim isn’t even credible, because, by law, institutions must support both men’s and women’s sports.

The other disturbing trend is represented through the naïveté of a former Northwester player (undoubtedly not alone), who suggested that instead of unionizing, the players “could have taken these issues straight to Coach Fitz and Northwestern.”

Let’s think that through, the appeal to the sentiments of management.  The implication of the statement is that Northwestern would accede to players’ demands, including that Northwestern would buck the NCAA and promise players health coverage after graduation.  Faster than you could say “monopoly practices,” if Northwestern even suggested such a thing, it would face possible NCAA sanctions for football and perhaps all sports.  For his part, Coach Fitz is nothing more or less than a very highly paid middle manager.  He knows full well that were he to take up the players’ demands, he’d probably lose his job and be blackballed in the industry an unlikely candidate for future posts. The idea that simply appealing to his better angels would solve the problem is, as we say in academia, laughable highly problematic.

Opponents of players’ unionization at Northwestern have yet to provide a credible argument against it.

 

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