Friday, March 28, 2014

On Unionizing College Sports

As an ideologue, I generally come down on the side of Unions acting as a thumb on the free-market scale, inflating wages to a point where supply and demand forces would not go.  But such is life that unions are a part of it.  There was a time when collusion within capital acted as a similar thumb, keeping wages well-below their free-market point while encouraging unsafe conditions. 

We have moved beyond those days.  Almost.  The news this week of the Northwestern Football Team's case before the National Labor Relations Board is an interesting one, with opinions flying every which way and wanna-be labor lawyers stepping up to offer their thoughts.  I choose to join them.

In my view, the relationship between capital (the NCAA, Conferences, Universities) and labor (players, a.k.a "student athletes") is supremely unbalanced.  Unions and collective bargaining have their greatest POSITIVE impact in situations such as this.  You can say all you want about some of the athletes getting "free educations", but there is a fascistic restraint of trade at work in major college sports that screams for unionization.

Unintended consequences is the law, and this case shows promise creating many of them.  At the heart of Northwestern's case was that the players are--in essence--employees--due the protections that employees are afforded under modern labor law.  The NLRB seems to have agreed, and while those who have advocated paying college players and increasing their "rights" are now joyous at what will follow, I can see several really interesting developments on the horizon.

1.  The death of college sports as we know them.  Certainly the death of the NCAA in the guise that it currently is. Let's face it; if tuition, room, board, meals and books are factored into a total compensation figure--even if there is a (taxable) stipend added, many, many college athletes would be unable to "pay the piper"--that is, Uncle Sam.

2.  Decrease in (economic) diversity at elite universities.  Let's face some cases, sports are a ticket to elite universities where tuition alone is greater than what an average family of 4 makes these days.  Poor, lower, and middle class students of all races ofter are able to attend these powerhouses of economic mobility BECAUSE they were on scholarship or grant.  The "employeeization" of sports would certainly create economic situations which "price out" those who cannot afford these educations.  You wanna bitch about income inequality?  Sports has been one way inequality has been chipped away at, providing a chance at the brass ring for folks who otherwise would not have had it.

3.  "Minor League" basketball and football.  Possibly "loosely" associated with universities, but without and sense that the people on the team attend that school.

I honestly don't know what happens to the non-revenue sports.

But I do know this:  we have no idea where this is going, and I don't believe we (the viewing, cheering public) are going to like where it lands.


Tom de Plume said...

So we will have liberal universities battling leftist unions with the potential for a lot of African American victims and I am sure it will be blamed on conservatives.

The Conservative Wahoo said...


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