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April 28, 2014

Will Northwestern's union spread?

If you're wondering what impact the recent decision by NLRB District 13 Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr had on college football, I have the answer, none.

Ohr, in a mind-boggling decision ruled that Northwestern University must treat it's scholarship football players as employees. If you're wondering how I have any knowledge of this situation, Labor Relations is my business. I spent 17 years as the Labor Relations Manager of the UPS Air District. And you thought I knew sports. Hardly, but I do know Labor and in my opinion Ohr's decision was another example of a Federal Government gone wild. The chicks on those videos have nothing on this guy. (I've never seen one of those videos but I've heard about them).

Ohr's decision has been called (mostly by sports people that have no idea what they're talking about) "reasoned", "well-written" and "makes a case for college football players as employees". And to that I say "hogwash" (I don't know what hogwash means but my grandma said it so it means something worthless).

Ohr makes a case alright, but it's illogical because he starts with a false premise. I could make a case that a dog is a cat in the same way. A dog has four legs as a cat, they drink by lapping with their tongue, they both have a tail and they both poop in the yard (at least mine). That's the process that Ohr uses to validate his decision.

I read the entire decision, and I can give you ten reasons off the top of my head why college football players will never be unionized:

• Ohr's ruling only applies to his district in and around Chicago. There are 26 NLRB districts and he only rules on his district. Northwestern has already appealed to the National NLRB Board in Washington and they have ruled to take the case for a national ruling. That could take months.

• A pro-union vote by the NLRB would send Northwestern to the Federal courts. As you know that would take years to litigate and by the time it comes to a decision the applicant would have no standing.

• The ruling only applies to private universities. (I told you this was a stupid decision). The NLRB has no ruling over government entities in any form.

• What about Right-to-Work states? In Illinois, a non-right-to-work state, if an entity organizes every employee of that company has to join a union (same in Kentucky). In right-to-work states if a school organizes the players will have a choice to join.

• Why would a college football player want to pay monthly dues to a union? Don't forget these are college students that watch every penny.

• What about the other scholarship athletes? Ohr's ruling only applied to the Northwestern football team (I told you this was a stupid ruling). How can it only apply to one of many bargaining groups such as men's and women's basketball, soccer, etc.

• Once they organize the value of the IRS could declare the player's scholarship income. Each player would be responsible for the taxes.

• Unionization goes both ways. I would like to be the negotiator for any college that has to bargain with a group of players that organize. The rules would include no late to class, no drug use (including pot), in bed by midnight, no grades under C and other onerous regulations. Once there is a union management doesn't have the flexibility for second chances.

• No way players vote for a union. Why would they? The nature of unions is to put a third party between the employer and the employee ostensibly for the employee's protection. How would that work in a team setting with a coach and player interaction? Would the player file a grievance if the coach talks nasty to him? The vote has already been held at Northwestern and according to an unnamed player 80 percent voted against. That's probably the reason the union-sympathetic NLRB sealed the votes.

• The NCAA and the major conferences are already addressing this problem and soon the reasons for the unionization attempt will go away. Soon the issues discussed such as unlimited meals, insurance and total scholarships for injured players will be a non-issue as they are addressed by the major conferences in DI football.

• There are other reasons against unionization, such as the possibility of a change of political leadership which will change the makeup of the NLRB which is heavily weighted for unions under Barack Obama, but that should do it for now.

Stay tuned, but my guess is that this whole thing will go away.

Louisville NEWS


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