OT: Taking the College Players Union further, union dues and strikes

Submitted by iawolve on February 20th, 2014 at 10:40 AM

I am not taking a position against the potential for a College Players Union, simply asking a question since it is not mentioned in the other major thread on the board.

If the players organize, they are surely paying dues to the Union. For those dues, a player or team or conference would expect proper representation for their causes. If that is the case, what would prevent the local Pac-12 union affiliate from going on strike for more bowl tie-ins? Maybe the SEC teams strike simply because they want a larger stipend than any other conference due to their perceived value. As a season ticket holder would you support our team going on strike and not playing games? Maybe some reasons would seem more valid while others not. Maybe NW players walk out until they get a practice facility comperable to Michigan's and simply don't play their scheduled conference game with us.

It is a hypothetical arguement that is not completely unrealistic. Interested in opinions from the board since I already heard it from the barstool last night. 




February 20th, 2014 at 10:48 AM ^

If they become a union, they'd be rather unlike any union ever. I am not yet convinced they'd have a central office and administrative (union) body. If not, then certain union expectations like dues and strikes aren't strictly necessary.

As far as I can tell they want the benefits if union-like (1) solidarity and (2) single-voicedness. The other correlates of modern union formation and activity (dues, strikes, whatever) may follow. But they needn't.


February 20th, 2014 at 12:12 PM ^

FTR: I didn't say it was going to be nefarious. I never came close to those thoughts.


I am just saying it's pretty clear this would be perfectly unlike any union ever. I mean they are stretching the semantic bounds of "employee" just to approve the **IDEA** of unionship. And it being so different from more recognizable unions has me entering the subject without any predisposed notions of what shape it will take. I only know it will be different, somehow.

The players haven't been particularly explicit about their visions for organizing. It remains to be seen whether they can acquire certain static benefits under the guise of the idea of being a "union" without actually acting like a union (with meetings and bargaining and dues and strikes and union presidents).

Because it's never been done before. Which is also my point: Doing all of this without a due-collecting, bargaining body remains an extant possibility, particularly because, if approved (to reiterate), this will be the most peculiar worker union in history.

IE: Could they (1) become a union, (2) acquire health insurance and guaranteed scholarships, and then (3) never do anything uniony again so long as "(1)" and "(2)" aren't taken from them? Well that'd be weird. But I think it's still possible. And more than that, it might be the best option.


Meanwhile, while I applaud their innovation and leadership, many of these student-athletes seem weakly-versed on the nature of the task before them. I bet many individuals in their group have very different ideas of what their dream union would look like and are only now realizing it...or maybe are not realizing it even yet.

French West Indian

February 20th, 2014 at 10:49 AM ^

Strike?  Yeah right.  Unlike the pros, Universities have an entire student body of thousands to draw from in order to field a team.

I've givenmy two cents before on this but the attempts at unionization and/or professionalization of the student-athlete are not going to work.


February 20th, 2014 at 10:50 AM ^

Players having a voice in the debate over compensation and bowl tie-ins?  That actually sounds great.  I love the sound of fat cat bowl executives actually having to be accountable for their decisions to somebody.


February 20th, 2014 at 11:00 AM ^

In the 2024 college football season the Cologne Vielfassen vs. the Shanghai Horse Chestnuts ends in a pathetic 3-0 loss for Cologne because Helmut Schultz's 80 yard final second field is blocked by Greg Zhong followed by a centerfield brawl. A capacity crowd of 4,000 witnessed the event.

Congratulations US college football players union, there's the Michigan - Ohio rivalry in just 10 short years' time.



February 20th, 2014 at 2:32 PM ^

We all know proximity to home is a factor for most kids coming out of high school. No one is going to go play football in Moscow because they are kind of unhappy that they don't get a stipend.

We still have most of the top universities in the world and we are still the only country that really cares about football. They'll drop unionization before anything every leaves the 50 states


February 20th, 2014 at 11:27 AM ^

But it must be done in a manner that is logical. For example, I think players should be able to negotiate the length of the season and new rules added or old rules amended but there needs to be a clear set of boundries of what would be allowed through collective bargaining and what isn't. The only way to get there would be to sit down and draw up a "constitution" if you will with the NCAA, student athletes and a impartial third party. 

On a side note:

Personally I would like to see the season brought down to 10 games with an 11th game being a bowl and then the championship game being the 12th. Playing 14 games is too much for 18-19 year old kids that have other responsibilites besides football and puts a lot of wear and tear on their bodies. When a 20 year old that has played almost 2 full NFL seasons wants to go pro people blast the kid for not getting his education and feel he should stay in school and get beat up a few more years and then go pro. I believe if the NCAA reduced the number games more kids would complete college, pursue more difficult degrees and come out of the college experience in a better postion post football than now. 

End rant.


February 20th, 2014 at 11:32 AM ^

It's all about the money. Inject as much into the sport as has been done in recent years, and the inevitable result is the professionalization of the players.

It's not unfair to the players if they choose to assert whatever rights they have. They can read. They know how much the coaches and the schools make on the strength of their backsides. Nor is it unfair to the schools or fans.

Though it's still kind of a bummer, because we have to give up the mythology that many of us cling to, that it's all about the old Alma Mater, the school colors, etc.

On the other hand, at the major conference level, it's not going back to the way it was. I loved the mythology. It made being a fan of your school more personal. I think that's the reason college football is so popular. That will change.

The more I learn about what is happening inside the college game, the less interested I become.


February 20th, 2014 at 11:52 AM ^

Maybe someone has brought this up, but how do unions work with regards to right-to-work states? I know that living in SC, we are a right-to-work state which basically means the entire state is non-union. But I am interested to know how that would work at a school like Clemson. Is it possible to unionize nationwide without regard to individual state employee policies?


February 20th, 2014 at 12:09 PM ^

Right to Work laws essentially outlaws the common form of a union security clause placed in collective bargaining agreements that mandates that an employee pay union dues (or for political objectors agency fees). Unions contend these right to work laws are unfair because they allow each individual to decide how much (if any) support to give to a union. The unions operate under something known as the duty of fair representation, which is a court created concept that orignally was a cure to racial discrimination in railroad unions, but is now a staple of labor law - this duty requires the union to represent all members within the bargaining agreement equally. Thus, those schools within right to work states are less likely to unionize since the unions would consider it less likely that they will generate dues. Despite the above, although Michigan is now a right to work state, there is a decent shot U of M would still be a unionization target since it is such a high profile school and its unionization would help solidify the concept of student-athlete unions.


February 20th, 2014 at 12:28 PM ^

Man, thanks for such a thorough answer. You sound like you may have been a union rep at some point. haha.

I would agree with you that Michigan would probably be a state that could adopt the union, but as for SC I just can't imagine it. It's almost a staple of the industries in SC to annouce they are R2W, and they do a good job of outlining the pros and cons of unions. I am personally not a proponent of unions as they exist today, but at one point in time they were a neccessity to ensure proper working hours/wages/rights. I will definitely be interested more in the implementation of the union than the development of the union itself. So many logistics to work out.

Again, thank you for the reply.  


February 20th, 2014 at 12:49 PM ^

You are welcome. One thing to be aware of. Private universities would unionize under the National Labor Relations Act, a federal law. A state university would only be able to unionize if there was a state law allowing public sector unions. Michigan has such a law, the Public Employees Relations Act. Therefore, if student athletes could meet the defintion of "public employee" under that statute, they could petition the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to unionize. Just as is going on in regard to Northwestern in front of the NLRB, there would probably be a factual hearing at MERC to determine whether the athletes were employees. If so, it would be up to a vote of the athletes within the bargaining units (ie the football players themselves) whether to unionize.

With Clemson and South Carolina, both are public universities. Therefore, those in favor of unionization need a state statute allowing for public sector unionization. South Carolina explicitly does not have a law allowing public sector unionization. Therefore, the concept can't take place at either university at this point.


February 20th, 2014 at 11:56 AM ^

What would be interesting is when you get into the "right to work" states. Or can Universities fire football players for underperforming? Everyone could be like Alabama and clear their roster of dead weight at the end of the season.


February 20th, 2014 at 12:01 PM ^

Definitely. Coming from a University in Michigan that was completely unionized to the point where if you elected not to join the union you would still pay the equivilent "dues" regardless (no joke), and then working for a public company in a right to work state, I can tell you that the hiring/firing process is vastly different. I could see that causing an uneven playing field on a state by state basis, because as you have pointed out you could clear the "dead weight" every year in the right to work state. If that's how it works anyway. 


February 20th, 2014 at 12:42 PM ^

In the world of represented labor, what you're describing is an agency shop, where you can choose to not be actively represented by the union but you still pay the collective bargaing fee (i.e., the dues, or "agency fee"). From the CAPA site, it is not clear in which direction they would like to go with regards to that, although I would say that agency would make much more sense for them if they can win the Northwestern case with the NLRB. In any event, for now the ruling - should it fall in the players' favor - would only apply to about 20 universities in Division I because they are private. Someone can correct me if I am wrong, but public employees and public universities are not covered by the NLRA, so the means by which this would be accomplished at most other schools would be vastly different. 


February 20th, 2014 at 12:48 PM ^

Yes, the situation you described was the situation I was faced with when I worked for MSU. I will be very interested to see how these hurddles are cleared, especially in right to work states. Thanks for giving me a little extra clarity on the issue. 


February 20th, 2014 at 12:55 PM ^

You are correct that the state and its subdivisions are not covered by the NLRA:

(2) The term "employer" includes any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly, but shall not include the United States or any wholly owned Government corporation, or any Federal Reserve Bank, or any State or political subdivision thereof, or any person subject to the Railway Labor Act [45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.], as amended from time to time, or any labor organization (other than when acting as an employer), or anyone acting in the capacity of officer or agent of such labor organization.\

29 U.S.C. section 152(2).

Therefore, for those at state schools to unionize, there must be a state statute permitting it. Michigan does have one of those statutes - the Public Employment Relations Act. The question is whether football players would be considered employees under that statute.


February 20th, 2014 at 11:53 PM ^

Right to work laws don't really have an impact on hiring/firing or "cutting dead weight". Essentially, they forbid requiring a dues payment or union membership as a condition of employment. They are means of economically attacking the larger union base (money).

Regardless of right to work law or not, the corrective action/progressive discipline/termination is going to be covered by the CBA.


February 20th, 2014 at 1:24 PM ^

Can I just say that I hope the idea of the union is more effective than the union itself.


personally, I think that players should be able to market themselves and make money.  IF a dealer wants to loan you a car for free, good for you.  If you can get 20$ an autograph good for you...  I don't see why universities should have to compromise themselves and pay players. 

The good thing about letting players market themselves is it avoids all title nine conflicts, it frees the universities from paying players, and (theoretically) the market should bear each players individual value making the system equal and fair.




February 20th, 2014 at 1:27 PM ^

I agree with you jdon, and I think that's the best way this could all shake out. The unionizing is a little bit of a logistics nightmare. The only question I have then is what to do about booster handshakes? It would seem to me that you would want to regulate it somehow.


February 20th, 2014 at 2:12 PM ^

I think you don't allow kids to accept money, legally, until they are on campus.  At that point the market can bear a student's value...

What we don't want is boosters dropping thousands on recruits. Although that already happens as well...




February 20th, 2014 at 2:34 PM ^

That's fair. I was just posing the question because I honestly think that's where the whole individual market thing will get bogged down. However, if they are accepting money they should have to pay taxes on that money and I have no idea how you would do that unless you forced boosters to use a university run "donation" site where you can direct funds to student athletes directly, but it is tracked so they will receive a w2 and file taxes. It would be difficult to track the cash, so I think you'd have to eliminate it. 


February 20th, 2014 at 5:11 PM ^

The problem with involving boosters is you get a booster who says, "hey kid, if you come play for Michigan I'll give you a job as the spokesperson of my car dealership making a grand a month and you rarely have to show up." Then when that kid rides pine for a year, the booster gets pissed and either tells the coach to play said recruit or he'll stop "bringing them in" or the guy fires his spokesman and the kid bails.

I just think the idea of getting boosters directly involved in this stuff is an awful idea.


February 20th, 2014 at 1:52 PM ^

The best thing to do is pay the players and have Universitys handle football related injuries even after the player graduates. Even if you are just paying them a little extra onto their scholarships. If a player goes pro and compounds his injuries received from football then the NFL should foot the bill. IE. Jahvid Best and his concussions

 The NCAA has regulations that make it nearly impossible for athletes to work. Add that to the time constraints of School work, practice, Games and Doctors/trainer time and you have no time to actually hold even a part time job.

 The thing is you cant trust Universitys and fans to not take advantage. I'm all for the Big tens suggestion of 20,000 above and beyond the normal scholarship for athletes. Some schools won't be able to afford it but not every school is a division 1 NCAA program and even fewer should be.

This union attempt seems like it is doomed to fail and only even attempted to try and drum up attention for the players movement.


February 20th, 2014 at 2:01 PM ^

In my opinion they are already paid. I know a lot of people will disagree but I think they are undermining the value of an education. Especially one at the University of Michigan. I would rather watch walk-ons play than watch minor league football. I know folks will say "but the universities make millions off these athletes" and to them I would say that I agree. I would like to see football treated like basketball used to be. Allow 18 year olds to declare for the draft and let the NFL develop them. 


February 20th, 2014 at 1:55 PM ^

I can't help but feel that if they succeed in unionizing the end result will the athletes being exploited by a new group of people.  The second the union is legalized they will be inundated by droves of lawyers, agents, consultants, etc all trying to maximize their own revenues.


I also forsee this thread turning political shortly.


February 20th, 2014 at 2:21 PM ^

If it got to the point where the university(ies) felt compelled to settle, and it won't, they would probably push for something like a CBA where the union would give up the right to strike in exchange for mandatory arbitration and a seat at the table on such issues as revenue sharing. But it's not going to get to that point. 


February 20th, 2014 at 2:29 PM ^

Well at my plant (which is unionized), when the Union strikes they don't get paid - I think they get some kind of union pay through their union. So if a college football player strikes, wouldn't the university then have the right to take away their payment - a college scholarship - until the dispute is resolved? Do the players unions have a fund to pay for their college during the strike? Would the university have the authority to outright prohibit them from attending classes in a strike condition?

An ugly situation no matter how it goes


February 20th, 2014 at 4:46 PM ^

Nothing's stopping the players from doing any of those things now. You don't need a union to strike, or to ask for stuff.

I think you're expecting every union to function the same way the UAW functions and thus missing all of the important details.

  1. They are able to do this because that was the latest decision in the O'Bannon case. The players didn't just one day decide to do this; they were given a legal precedent by a landmark decision.
  2. Their employer is Northwestern, not the NCAA, not the Big Ten.
  3. The O'Bannon case didn't just say they could unionize but that the union could bargain for sale of their likenesses, e.g., with EA Sports to put Northwestern's players in their college football game.
  4. The NCAA hasn't budged or shown any willingness to budge on whether getting paid, e.g. by EA for their likenesses, constitutes a violation.
  5. They don't have any liquid payment, so I doubt they're going to have union fees at least to start. Best guess is they'll have members who've gone on to law degrees serve pro bono, and get financing through donations of pro players.

So this is really just another baby step. The things you're suggesting are not just unrealistic, but so far down the road that it's useless to bring them up.


February 20th, 2014 at 5:06 PM ^

Good perspective, Seth. I don't think it's useless for the OP to ask these questions--obviously there's a lot of ignorance (and misinformation) about how this is going to work out there right now. Kudos to you (and the various mods/JDs) for bringing some information to the thread.

Also, hooray for whoever starting deleting political comments. I love being proved wrong when I say the mods won't do anything.