Breaking the Law? Northwestern Football Coach Pressures Players Not to Unionize
Breaking the Law? Northwestern Football Coach Pressures Players Not to Unionize
take from the Nation and an attorney from a nonprofit dedicated to economic and social justice.
Not surprising. But accurate. Fitzgerald's "advice" is totally inappropriate and self-serving. He's a dick.
Perhaps. But the lawyer is claiming the actions might be illegal, not just inappropriate or self-serving.
involved in several Union organizing activities from the "no" perspective. Many times the "company" will cross the line unwittingly.
The key is to make sure eveyone involved uses their First Amendment rights. For example, Pat can say, "I believe by voting in a union will destroy College Football Forever and perhaps the entire universe" or "In my opinion, the Union is run by Satan himself".
He can also say; "If the Union is certified, I will no longer be the HC of NWU. You will get new coach and who knows what type of system he will bring"
The "company" employees and those against unionization can wear T shirts, buttons and other advertisements that say "No Union". This again is a First Amendment right.
He cannot say, "If a Union is certified, I will do XXX to you or the team" or "Dont vote for the union or else I will XXXX to you or others".
I have seen where Union organizers inside the company will take tape recorders and provoke Management into saying "one little thing" that will cause the NLRB to automatically certify the union. So Pat should be careful in what he says but NWU has one of the best Law Schools in the world and I am sure that he has been advised numerous times on what he can and cannot do. I would be surprised if he crossed the line.
BTW: In all 3 of my union organizing situations, all 3 failed to organize. (Just in case you were wondering).
conditions aren't the same, but unions use tactics as well. The workers that want the union use intimidation and physical violence to get their fellow workers to vote yes. "If you vote no or we think you vote no and we win, we will do XXX to you and your family." The more vocally opposed to the union you are, the more you risk retaliation.
I was involved in one union vote while employed as a summer worker. The owner had three separate businesses on the same property. One was union as required for auto industry and aerospace work. Two were not because the products they manufactured were not required to have union work. The union came in and wanted to unionize the company that made products for oil drilling. The owner said: "If you vote yes and the union is certified, I will close down my business and open it at another location". The union won and the business was moved. I went back to school in the fall, but a lot of guys lost their jobs.
I don't know if his actions necessarily reflect his character. Unfortunately, I think he's basically doing his job at this point. Fitzgerald's status as a former player has always been at the forefront of his image and, at least in what we've seen in the press over the last couple of years, made him extremely relatable when it comes to his players. I think this is really a case of him being forced by the university to do their bidding.
It will be interesting to see where unionization heads. Even if this vote fails at Northwestern, I think it's only a matter of time before some school passes it. The proverbial cat has been let out of the bag. It'll be interesting to see how this develops and how it affects the landscape of college sports.
so there's absolutely no way this union idea would be a negative?
Consider, just for a moment, that Fitz actually has his players best interests at heart and believes what he is saying. Apparently that simply can't be true to many of you. Apparently you and others know what the world will look like with unions at schools and it will clearly be a better place for the athletes.
OK put that aside, lets say his comments are "self serving" (put aside the possibility that they could be both self serving and in the interests of the players). It is now inappropriate in this country to argue for something that is in your self interest? Why is it ok for a player to do something self serving but not a coach, an AD, a school?
but your last point is clearly flawed on the premise that someone serving their own interests in a manner that negatively affects others as opposed to just doing something for your enjoyment.
you can't possibly believe that.
that sounds horrible s/
it will suck if we achieve it.
to do things without the consent of the participants.
As opposed to freely entered transactions that both sides agree is in their best interest.
Now I'm not for the NCAA. It's been said that companies with unions usually deserve them.
Funny how the universities--which have an unquestionable political slant--treat their own minions.
I understand my profession's place in the universe. We are evil monsters with smaller-than-average genitals and a lack of conscience. But I do get a little sick of people being all "leave it to the lawyer to point out alleged violations of law." It's like saying "you just think Global Warming is real because of your 'research,' MISTER SCIENTIST."
I believe he was trying to point out that there might be a little bias. I also believe many of us suffer from overreacting to everything syndrom.
That's the way I took the comment as well. The writer would have likely gotten a completely different answer if he had asked a corportate lawyer who works against union formation.
You don't speak for us all.
I'm pretty happy with my girth.
I know, sophomoric, but his name always made me giggle.
You mean other than that he passed away in 2012? His name was pronounced CO-burn, by the way.
I hadn't heard that. I haven't subscribed to The Nation in 5 ish years. I meant no disrespect. I did enjoy his Devil's Advocate column.
Is it illegal if he's telling them not to vote to unionize with a non-existent union?
Or rather, did we completely settle whether or not these are Pat Fitzgerald's employees yet? As far as I can tell all they have is this vote.
Like the posted article here says, what they can't do is offer promises or engage in anything which could be seen as threatening or retaliatory, although the WSJ did report that, at one point, supposedly Fitzgerald did meet with players individually, which probably is skirting the line of what the university could not do. He also wrote letters to athletes and their parents according to that same article - not sure what the interpretation of that would be.
In these situations, as far as I understand, the union doesn't need to exist, merely the prospect of forming one. Volkswagen just went through this when one of its plants in the United States had its workers ultimately decide not to join the UAW, although I believe that VW was actually supportive of the effort because it better fits the business model of management-union cooperatives that exists in Germany.
Needless to say, however, Northwestern has put a lot of time and effort into advertising why they believe the vote should be "no".
>> The Nation failed to point them out and I'm curious as to why their contributing Law Attorney, Tony Paris, neglected to as well.
One has to start with the possibility that there wasn't any breaches of the labor laws. Just because the article suggests something doesn't mean it actually happened.
Articles such as these are part of a huge PR war being fought. This article is battlespace preparation based on an anticipated "no" vote.
I thought the article was pretty clear: the author posited that an employer cannot lawfully use threats or intimidation to deter employees from voting for a union, and then suggested that Fitzgerald's remarks amounted to threats & intimidation.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the part you didn't quote from Price points to the part from Fitzgerald you paraphrased away.
In my heart, I know that the downside of joining a union is much bigger than the upside.
You paraphrased this as Fitzgerald saying there's "no upside," but that's (importantly) not what he said. Thus Price:
The coach is entitled to his opinion, but his claim that the downside of unionization is ‘much bigger’ – could arguably be construed as a threat and/or imply some sort of reprisal.
Despite being pro-unionization, I don't think it's actually a threat. I don't think Price is being biased either, though. He's just explaining what could be argued if the pro-union people wanted to press an interference claim before the NLRB (or whomever). He's hedging pretty hard while he does it--it's not like he's insisting Fitzgerald did something illegal. He's just saying what would be focused on in a hypothetical legal argument.
You edited this before I could reply, so I guess everything's copacetic?
The alumni association's threats of the players not getting access to the networking opportunities provided by being a football player at Northwestern is the most obvious one. That's a pretty blatant violation of the law.
Let the players do what they want. It is their team.
You really think "it is their team'?
I bet the coaches, the University and fans would say otherwise.
but CAPA is a union as far as the NLRB is concerned..
really, thats what matters.. it is only a matter of time before northwestern or some other private school certifies.. then, its on.. even if it werent to be expanded to public schools, by the NLRB, it will cede an advantage to private schools that would be taken up by public schools..
How will that be an advantage? They still have to play by NCAA rules. And if it was just private schools, who would want to go coach and have to deal with a union if you had a choice. This would be a very clear disadvantage.
[I'm generalizing] I agree and especially when you have the mentality of a highly recruited, hyper-competitive athlete. You want to go play for the best and with the best because you think you're the best. And having one more body to answer to, in addition to the coaching staff and school administration seems more like a burden to a big recruit than an incentive.
but, if you are offered a guaranteed 4 year scholarship at USC v an Alabama crapshoot, which will you choose?
if Vanderbilt offers full medical coverage and Tennessee doesnt, which will you choose?
which would you encourage youre son to choose?
If Northwestern or Notre Dame offers both and Michigan doesnt, which would you take?
This is all about a benefits package that creates competition. If a union at one school can offer that and another cannot, all other things being equal, who would not take the security?
I'm not saying that kids are going to choose Holy Cross over Kentucky basketball, or Pitt over Penn State football tomorrow, just that the trend will move that way over time. if Pitt can pick up an extra 4 star each year because of the benefits that they offer that Penn State doesn't, eventually their recruiting profile will rise, and theyre in on the same 5 stars. And at that point Penn State has to guarantee the same things, or a similar package, or lose out on 5 stars.
a rising tide lifts all boats.
The benefits, competition, and basic econ werent the point.. Labor law 101 was the point I was trying to make. The NLRB makes a decision, when they do, it wins. the next battle is in front of the full labor board. If they rule in favor of CAPA, they're a union and can bargain collectively, deal with it.
As with everything else, when people collectively bargain, it creates a competitive advantage that others have to keep up with.
Thank you for letting me abuse your straw man though.
What mercenary college coach would want to goto Notre Dame and recruit with a labor negotiated contract that says recruits have guaranteed scholarships, medical coverage, paid trips home, etc.. Who would ever take a good private school job where he can tell mama her son is covered like that?
Competition is tough enough between ND and us already.. you dont think Michigan would have to offer the same things just to keep up?
He knows from personal experience that every player will avoid severe injury and go on to make $2.2 million per year, so they don't need to organize. That's true, right?
So you're saying that if you do suffer injury or otherwise don't go on to make 2 mil a year, you do need to organize? Sorry, how does that follow?
My point is that it's easy for Fitzgerald to sit where he is now and "know in (his) heart" that a union won't help...Has Fitzgerald gone to bat for catastrophic health insurance for players? Maybe he has, but I"m not aware of it. You'd think a guy who's looking out for his players would want that. Why be against something that could deliver it, especially when that something hasn't exactly made pro players worse off?
Well, we don't entirely know that he is against it. His personal beliefs may not coincide with the statements that he is delivering to his players. Despite the prominence of the HC position, he's still an employee of Northwestern and is beholden to a large number of people who are far higher in the food chain than him. This may be a case of him begrudgingly following orders from his bosses.
This is complete conjecture and shouldn't be read as an authoritative statement. Just a theory.
This will probably be taken down for fear of politics (personally I'd just lock it so that people don't keep posting it), but I think what Fitzgerald did really does skirt the border of what is allowable. The power of a union is to protect its members from undue pressure from superiors; putting undue pressure on people ABOUT starting a union by superiors is dangerously close to that behavior, and if only I had taken employment law in law school I'd feel more knowledgeable on the topic. That said, the level to which Fitzgerald has gone to dissuade his players from even considering joining a union, and the veiled threats/admonishments about future consequences, would make me uncomfortable as a lawyer for NW.
could lose millions. Which is why. . . never mind. The players have accomplished an enormous amount simply with the threat. Who knows, other Americans might want to check it out.
They did. Worked great until it stopped working. There's a reason private sector union membership has fallen off a cliff.
This. That era is long gone. That VW vote in TN was HUGE in terms of that movement ever picking up steam. VW didn't remotely oppose it and it still lost big.
Right now as working conditions seem fair and people are more grateful for having a job than not in this economy, unions won't seem like a good idea. Why pay money to something you don't have need for. I'm sure union popularity will cycle back into America if things get bad for employees.
that their decline results from something other than their lack of efficacy. In this case, for example, the NCAA is doing backward somersaults to better accommodate the players in the face of even the threat of unionization. To this extent, again, the players are succeeding.
I don't personally know, btw, whether unions for players are a good thing or can work, but I do know that organizing with other people who are in a like situation and have a grievance is a pretty good idea--has worked for a lot of people down through the years. Is working once again. I see these things more as objective truths than politics.
What the unions can't stop is playing time. Right now before the union is formed and adopted across the country this is the "ace" that's in the universities hands to play. You vote "yes" you sit the bench. It might cost the university a game or even a season but in the long run and the message it would send be a benefit?
Unions won't have the power to decide who is #1 #2 QB. Who starts who sits. That's still the coaching staffs choice. This could get really ugly.
This is the thing I have been wondering. If a scholarship player needs to be disciplined or isn't playing well, is a walkon now a 'scab'?
The thing you describe is called "retaliation" and is really really illegal. Also, union balloting is secret for a reason.
How can the union prove it? How many 4-5 star players don't make it? Who evaluated the players during practice to see who starts? The coaches and right now at NW is where this ends or it blows up and everything changes for the worse.
I just believe the threat of not playing to an 18 year old might be enough to sway how this vote goes. What other choice or "retaliation" to avoid this does the school have? Honestly, I don't know and would like others opinions.
Would it upset fans like me and you? Sure. But I'm upset that their trying to form a union. Unions tied to college sports will tear apart what I grew up loving. I like the NFL but I LOVE college football.
This is not to bash unions. I belong to a union. I'm a professional firefighter. The key word "professional". The UAW or the IAFF have no place in college sports.
Kids can stay in school and get their college education for free do too their athletic ability. If gifted enough they can go on to the NFL and join their union and get paid after only 2 years of school.
I'm rambling I know so I'll stop. I know things always change. I know change worries people and they don't like it. I just hope college football doesn't lose it's amateurism because it's that innocents' about this sport I hold dear and love.
that innocence was thrown out a long time ago.
I'm generally anti-union, but you can't really fault them for wanting to unionize just like you can't fault management/ownership for opposing it.
Maybe unionization isn't the right answer here, but there are a lot of problems in the college model that need fixing and this at least seems to be pushing it to the forefront.