Northwestern Players on the Verge of History – AFL-CIO
Football players at Northwestern University will make history this Friday that has nothing to do with yards gained, tackles made or touchdowns scored. They will be the first group of collegiate athletes—athletes who are the key to the $6 billion-a-year big-time college sports industry—to vote on joining a union.
Just getting to the vote was a major victory for the players, whose major concerns about fairness, working conditions, safety and medical care—especially after their playing days are over but their injuries are not—were not being heard or addressed by Northwestern. That’s why the players came together on their own and decided that the best way to win a voice was through collective action and a union.
Like workers everywhere, they want a voice on the job—and don’t let anyone tell you these football players are not working for the university and padding its bottom line through their jobs on the football field.
They want and deserve a say in how they spend as many as 60 hours a week under the tight control of coaches and the university, in honing their football skills while finding enough hours outside of football to keep up with their demanding academic responsibilities. I know how tough that can be. My son played football for Cornell University, and balancing the demands of football and the classroom could be daunting.
Like an ever-growing number of young people, Northwestern football players are finding out that collective action works and that unions can be a way to solve problems and improve their lives. On college campuses they’ve seen university workers, from food service employees to graduate assistants to professors, come together in unions and win on-the-job improvements and a more equal footing with university administrators.