You should know about this

I guess both the major league and minor league football seasons are over now, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to think about.

 I just heard on Friday that for over ten years some college players have been working to establish a union for college football players. It's called the National College Players Association. It was started in 2001 by a group of UCLA football players and has expanded since then. According to their web page they have had some notable victories, including:

 A $10 million fund to assist former athletes who wish to complete their undergraduate degree or attend a graduate program.

Sponsored The Student-Athletes Bill of Rights, which requires California athletic programs to provide protections such as scholarships for permanently injured athletes, sports-related medical coverage, and scholarships for degree completion.

An increase in the NCAA death benefit from $10,000 to $25,000.

The elimination of limits on health care for college athletes.

The option of athletic programs to give players multi-year scholarships.

New laws to minimize deceptive recruiting practices.

The expansion of the NCAA Catastrophic Injury Insurance Policy so that college athletes who suffer permanent, debilitating injuries can receive adequate home health care.

Key safety guidelines to help prevent deaths during workouts.

A lawsuit settlement that made over $445 million in direct benefits available to athletes of all sports.

The expansion of the types of scholarship money players can receive.

The elimination of the $2000 salary cap on money earned from part-time jobs.  

There was more of a discussion of this on NPR's Tell Me More on Friday, and you can follow the link to hear more. 

Obviously the ultimate goal of any union is to gain the ability to negotiate on wages, hours, and working conditions for the members of the union. This undoubtedly seems a long way off, maybe even inconceivable, for the underpaid workers the NCAA refers to, without a hint of awareness of the irony, as “student-athletes”.

 On the other hand, there was a time when the same would be said of unionization of graduate student teaching assistants at U.S. universities, and that has changed. I well remember the struggle of graduate students to unionize at the University of Michigan when I was there at law school, and the arguments the university made then were the same as what the NCAA would undoubtedly make against unions for football players.

Nevertheless, while the argument that teaching assistants are primarily students, there to learn and not to provide a valuable service to the university found support from the NLRB in 2004 (at least at private schools), the same argument is laughable when it comes to football or basketball players. They're not there to learn, their academic progress is irrelevant to their real jobs of playing football or basketball, and the universities make millions of dollars off their efforts. 

I don't really believe in paying college athletes, mainly because I don't think big-time college athletics should exist at all. Nevertheless, someone is making money off these workers' labor, and it isn't the workers.

Maybe it's time for that to change. 

One thought on “You should know about this

  1. We’ve got everything in higher education ass-backwards in this country, now; so exploiting college players is just one more insult that joins skyrocketing costs for declining value, overpaid fund managers and college presidents; and the corporatization of research in the overall picture of decline.

    Most kids would do better to learn a trade like plumbing or carpentry and then educate themselves from the unprecedented abundance of information, literature and distance learning opportunities that are available these days at your fingertips.

    Early education is what really counts, and we should be pulling out all the stops to pack value into those educationally formative years.

    College is frequently little more than a social incubator and a blip on the ol’ resume.

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