Pat Fitzgerald is taking a stand.
They say all politics is local.
In the case of the Northwestern union vote, it has become personal.
While former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter and College Athletes Players’ Association chief Ramogi Huma met with lawmakers in Washington on Wednesday, coach Pat Fitzgerald delivered a message to his players.
Addressing them for the first time after getting clearance from university lawyers, Fitzgerald told them it’s in their “best interests” to vote no on unionization April 25.
Fitzgerald did not explain his reasoning Saturday, other than to say the players do not need a “third party” to advance desired reforms regarding long-term health care and increasing stipends.
Helluva thing to spend time on during spring practice, ain’t it?
Fitzgerald’s got to walk a pretty fine line with his opposition, too.
Under the National Labor Relations Board ruling on March 26, Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald is now in the position of being an employer whose employees are entitled to vote on whether to unionize. As the employer, Fitzgerald, his three-member staff, his nine assistant coaches and his four graduate assistant coaches are entitled to urge “no” votes. They can try to explain to the players that the union is a bad idea for them and for the school, but they must be careful in what they say. Under the law that governs union elections, Fitzgerald and his crew may not indulge in statements that could be viewed as:
If any of the coaches, for example, discuss playing time or team privileges or a player’s scholarship in the context of the election, the coaches would violate labor laws. If they question a player about his thoughts on the union, that would constitute a violation. If they suggest there would be repercussions after a vote to unionize, that would be a violation. But they are permitted to explain alternatives to the union and to offer suggestions about how to solve the problems that led the players to ask for the election.
At Alabama, Saban would have a lot more folks available to urge “no” votes. But I digress.
I agree with Munson that we won’t see any cheap shots or sharp tactics from Fitzgerald and his staff. That’s more likely to backfire than anything else. But I do expect there’s plenty of emotion on display behind closed doors.
Well, belief and facts are often entirely different. In any event, I think they’ll be careful. But if the Northwestern players vote to unionize, don’t be surprised if tactics do sharpen, especially at other schools staring down the union barrel. College football at present isn’t emotionally equipped to handle it.