Athletes: Say no to unions

So, college athletes want to become unionized.

Having a father who spent the bulk of his life working in the mines and having taught for nearly four decades, I have some knowledge of the benefits, and problems, associated with unions.

For some, like the United Mine Workers, unions saved jobs and worked diligently at taking care of its membership. But, it came with a cost.

I remember listening to the stories my dad and his brother would tell surrounding their experiences of walking on the picket lines during the tumultuous early days of unionization.

More than once, their discussions surrounded the violence that came about from the conflicts between the miners and mine operators, who would go to any lengths to keep the organization out of their business.

Those trying times, however, allowed the workers to earn benefits that my mother was able to utilize long after my father passed away.

But, for all the good unions do, they don’t come cheaply. Monthly dues had to be paid in order to maintain one’s position and those that failed to keep up were dropped from the union and, eventually, the mine.

Just who will pay those necessary payments for a college athlete struggling just to make ends meet? Will they become part of the so-called scholarship that has been the standard of college athletes for decades or will some other form of payment become necessary?

Will scholarships even continue to exist in the new system or will they be replaced with a ‘pay-for-play’ format?

And, if institutions are forced to pay their athletes, who will take care of paying the federal, state and local income taxes that come with ‘earning a paycheck’?

In all their haste to help college athletes earn their piece of the pie, it would appear that the talking heads who work for ESPN – especially former Duke basketball standout Jay Bilas – need to take a step back and find answers to questions like these as well as others.

I’m not completely against paying athletes for their services, but talking about offering stipends that will enrich the scholarship that they already receive isn’t the answer.

You can’t have things both ways.

Go ahead and pay them, but subject them to the same taxes that the average worker is faced with on a daily basis.

Go ahead and let them be represented by unions, but make them pay the same dues my father, uncle and myself had to pay.

But, make sure you explain these things to athletes. Make sure you tell them that the scholarship that they have been receiving that paid the full cost of expenses to attend the institution of their choice as well as provide benefits that cost other students thousands of dollars won’t nearly meet those costs once they elect to go down that path.

Unions have their place. Just not in college athletics.

Contact Jim Butta at