Dear Kid,

Since college football players appear to have (temporarily at least) won the right to unionize, it seems like a good idea to learn a little bit more about unions.

Being the kind of mother that I am, I hereby offer you my great wisdom and insight on unions and their history.

If we go back to Neanderthal days, working conditions were pretty lousy for everyone. The weather was lousy, the tools were lousy, and the grocery caves were always out of stock. However, everyone worked for himself (or his family) and that is where entrepreneurship and the mafia began.

Fast forward a while and (unless you were top of the food chain, royalty wise) working conditions were still pretty nasty. Overlords and other people with power spent their time making sure those Not With Power worked much harder and longer than was reasonable. One day, Joe the Slave complained to his wife about the working conditions at the pyramid sites. Mrs. Joe the Slave was tired and not in the mood to listen and told Joe to unionize or shut up. The next day, Joe took a look around the site, saw the whips and other implements of torture and cleverly shut up. Which is why Mrs. Joe the Slave is not the father of unionization but did get some peace and quiet in her hut.

Boring stuff, boring stuff…ah, here we are.

Fast forward some more to more modern, industrial age, awful working conditions.

One day, Joe the Machine Shop Worker was complaining to his wife about the working conditions of the machine shop. Since Mrs. Joe the Machine Shop Worker worked in a sweat shop and did all the household chores (that’s how things were done in Those Days), she was not in the mood to listen. “Joe,” said Mrs. Joe. “Lemme tell you what to do.” And she told him all about unionizing even though no one had ever heard of it before. Then she told him to invite his friends over so he could tell them, and she didn’t say one word other than “Would like some more tea?” during the meeting because that’s how things were done in Those Days. (Including that people pretended that what they were drinking was tea.)

So Joe and his friends made Demands of the machine shop owners and got beaten up for their troubles and Mrs. Joe had to take care of everything. Which was often the way it was done in Those Days.

Unions went on strike. Is unionization good for college football players? DearKidLoveMom.comBut Joe and his buddies had made a point (as did several other people) and eventually the National Labor Union was founded in 1866. It did reasonably well, but when Samuel Gompers came along and founded the AFL things really got going. All the Joes and Mrs. Joes signed up and went on strike and turned American business upside right. (I just made that up, but it seems fitting.) The unions were able to get workers decent wages, decent hours, and decent working conditions.

There is no question (imho) that unions were an important and necessary thing when they first emerged into the fabric of American life. There are more questions about the role of unions these days. (Do they make it impossible to fire people who are not doing their job well? Have they driven up payrolls to the point where American companies can’t be competitive in the world market? Is too much time, money, and effort spent on making union bosses happy rather than on the work of the union? Etc.)

Much as I adore questions like that I have no interest in answering them (at least today) so you’ll have to develop your own POV (point of view) if you want one.

As to my POV about college football players unionizing? Personally, I’m not convinced it’s a good idea. But I’m pretty sure they had to do something to get the colleges and NCAA to make real and responsible change to the way college players are treated. Stay tuned. I have great faith that there will be more (much more) to the story.

Love, Mom