Unlike Colbert, college football coach follows age-old anti-union playbook

Another development in the continuing story of the Northwestern University football players who dared, dared suggest that their university cared more about dollars than athletes, and that perhaps unionization might get them a voice in their own employment “student-athletic careers.”  And some of them are entirely more predictable and less entertaining than Stephen Colbert’s.

What’s either amazing, or perhaps totally predictable, is the holy trinity of anti-union canards that have been trotted out against the proposed unionization of the players.

“I believe it’s in their best interest to vote no,” Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald is quoted by the NY Times. “I just do not believe we need a third party between our players and our coaches, staff and administrators…Whatever they need, we’ll get them.”

In other words:

  • Management knows better than employees what’s good for them
  • Unionization comes from some outside group, which will be between management and employees, rather than from the employees themselves
  • A union would be superfluous, because we’re already entirely responsive to employee needs

Here’s what it’s about, lest we forget: it’s about power.  It’s about the power for employees to have more of a say in the conditions of their employment, whether that be compensation, working conditions, or workplace rules.  In the multibillion dollar industry that is college football, football players get a tiny fraction of the revenue pie, are subject to workplace dangers from which they’re not adequately protected and the long term effects of which are not mitigated, and have no say over when or where or how they will work.

Coach Fitzpatrick talks a good game about how Northwestern treats its players, but until he’s willing to cede that his three main points in fact do not hold water, one might as well take his point as prima facie evidence that he does not take his own players seriously.

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