Last week, in what has to be one of the more ridiculous stories that I have seen in a while, football players at Northwestern University in Chicago filed the necessary paperwork to begin the process of forming a union.

Certainly, you can say that college athletes have a reason to be displeased in many instances. One need only to look at the O'Bannon lawsuit regarding royalties surrounding video game likenesses, or the recent revelation of unsanitary and unsafe conditions at Grambling to know that players have a beef with the system.


However, NCAA Legal Officer Donald Remy makes the most important point of the story, in that "This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education."

The efforts of these Northwestern students are interesting but not necessarily fruitful for college athletics. At the end of the day, student athletes in football, men's and women's basketball, and other sports often get any number of worthwhile benefits

  • A free college education;
  • Room and board;
  • Three meals a day;
  • Highly individualized, professionalized athletic coaching.

Since we are using Northwestern as an example, these students are receiving nearly $63,000 in free benefits for being a college athlete, not counting coaching. So I'm not sympathetic to the idea that these athletes are "employees" even if they are being handsomely compensated for their athletic ability.

As the story notes, the players are backed by the United Steelworkers union. Unions these days are, instead of trying to do right by their members, trying to expand their waning influence as more and more people are forgoing union membership. When people have the freedom to work in their field without joining a union, as those who live in right-to-work states do, people often choose not to join a union because unions tend to benefit union leadership more than the union rank and file.

So in this instance, the United Steelworkers decided to prey on some college kids to get their name in the paper and maybe make a few bucks off of them. Sad, but typical given how unions have worked hard to decrease their relevance to average workers.

--Brian Griffiths is a co-founder and contributing editor for Red Maryland, which has strived to be the premier blog and radio network of conservative and Republican politics and ideas in the free state since 2007. He is chairman of the Maryland Young Republicans. and has worked on and advised numerous local, state and federal campaigns. His Red Maryland posts appear here regularly.