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Larry Kennan Says That Unionization Of Assistant Coaches Is Possible

In a Saturday appearance with Ralph Vacchiano and Dean Dalton on Sirius NFL Radio’s The Weekend Kickoff, the Executive Director of the NFL Coaches Association addressed the ongoing controversy regarding changes to the league’s pension system for non-players.
And Kennan didn’t close the door on the possible unionization of assistant coaches.
“I think at some point in time maybe it is [an option],” Kennan said.  “We’ve talked about it over the course of time.”
But the league seems to be prepared for this specific potential fight.
“The NFL owners say that there’s no way we could become a union because we’re managers and supervisors, which is one of the definitions of people who can’t become a part of a union,” Kennan said.  “But if we’re managers and supervisors, why aren’t they keeping us in the loop on all these changes that [has been made to] the pension and all that stuff?  Why don’t they talk to us about it beforehand?   They obviously haven’t done that so we aren’t supervisors or managers.”
It’s an interesting question — is it enough to manage or supervise players, or are coaches exempt from unionization only if they manage or supervise other coaches?
Regardless of whether the assistants ever try to organize, Kennan seems to think that many of them will decide that working at the college level is preferred.
“[C]ollege coaching is a much better quality of life in terms of hours spent and living conditions and all that than the NFL is,” Kennan said.  “There’s going to be a number of coaches over the next two or three years who leave the NFL to coach in college because of this pension issue.”
Kennan also shared his views on whether it was necessary to make changes to the pension system.
“All the information we have says that the owners are making huge amounts of profit,” Kennan said.  “And for them to do this, particularly with no advance warning, it makes no sense.  It leads me to believe that it was maybe a knee-jerk reaction to the economy and also maybe it was a strategy to deal with the negotiations they’re getting ready to do with the players and the lockout that the owners are talking about.”
As to the recent retirement of Colts assistants Howard Mudd and Tom Moore, Kennan tried to suggest that the moves arose solely from the pension issue. But Kennan’s words continue to make us think that Mudd wasn’t facing the kind of immediate threat to his money that has been described in some media accounts.
“They are retiring strictly because of the underfunding of the pension and the changes in the pension,” Kennan said.  “What Howard said to me was, ‘I can’t trust the NFL to not do something again next year. I need to get my money and get out of the league.’”
This seems to imply that, for this year, Mudd and Moore wouldn’t have suffered any adverse consequences.
Regardless of whether and to what extent the issue will cause actual financial hardship in 2009, enough of the assistant coaches are upset to indicate that it will continue to be a source of friction — and it could mean that college programs will be able to beef up their staffs during the next hiring cycle.

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17 Responses to “Larry Kennan Says That Unionization Of Assistant Coaches Is Possible”
  1. hungryzombie says: May 16, 2009 6:28 PM

    Just what the world needs…more unions. Ugh…

  2. NYG-Krow says: May 16, 2009 6:29 PM

    I’m about as pro-labor as it gets. But NFL assistant coaches make six figures minimum… some well over 7. It takes brass cujones for them to go all “Mother Jones” on the NFL owners. These guys are hardly being exploited… so I’ll save my indignation for people working at Walmarts. These poor fellows will just have to buy Audis instead of BMWs… awwwww… life is so cruel.

  3. oxnard says: May 16, 2009 6:53 PM

    unions suck….see gm, chrysler, and the biggest lover of unions OBAMA

  4. bofarr says: May 16, 2009 7:34 PM

    There is an old saying; any company with a union deserved to have one. Regardless of the coaches compensation level (and for the most part it’s not as high as people seem to think, what about the guys who are not experienced position coaches or coordinators?) the owners made an implicit promise by setting up a pension fund. A pension fund by it’s very nature implies a long term agreement. To arbitrarily suspend or change that fund is a bad faith move and seeds mistrust. The owners assume that there is an infinite pipeline of coaching talent but that’s simply not true; we as fans see the Peter principal in full effect all the time when a newly minted position coach, coordinator or head coach fails miserably. It’s short sighted on the owner’s part to be dismissive of a commodity that has a much longer shelf life than the players.

  5. superius says: May 16, 2009 7:44 PM

    NYG-Krow says:
    May 16th, 2009 at 6:29 pm
    I’m about as pro-labor as it gets. But NFL assistant coaches make six figures minimum… some well over 7. It takes brass cujones for them to go all “Mother Jones” on the NFL owners. These guys are hardly being exploited… so I’ll save my indignation for people working at Walmarts. These poor fellows will just have to buy Audis instead of BMWs… awwwww… life is so cruel.

  6. TealDeal says: May 16, 2009 7:50 PM

    Get a 401k like the rest of us.

  7. furedman says: May 16, 2009 8:46 PM

    Horrible decision! All the regular employees have no power to stand up for their pensions, because they will be just fired. At least the coaches can lead the fight. Pension should stay!

  8. wgtw47 says: May 16, 2009 8:54 PM

    To: NYG-Krow
    Extremely well said. You see assistant coaches getting the shaft routinely in this league and they ought to seek some form of protection. I would suggest that the role of assistant coaches versus head coaches and managers is somewhat akin to that of teachers and school administrators and we know teachers are unionized. This story, along with that of last year’s bit regarding chronic medical issues of retired players, all point to the fact that NFL teams are, despite the millions thrown at superstars, bad employers who seek to avoid providing the most elemental benefits. If I were a young superstar negotiationg a contract, instead of the quick cash in I would ask for things like lifetime medical and guaranteed disability pay. It would make more sense in the long run. I wonder what to league reaction would be to that?

  9. NYG-Krow says: May 16, 2009 8:56 PM

    “If you don’t like it then why aren’t you out doing something about it? ”
    I do clown. I boycott Walmart because they sell cheap Chinese crap instead of American products. But I’ll hardly shed a tear for those millionaire coaches. I’ll leave that a$$ kissing for you…. superius, jaysus… can’t write this stuff. Jerk.

  10. OverTheUnder77 says: May 16, 2009 8:58 PM

    Another union, another organization to strike and holdout etc. Just play the game, coach the game, etc. If this does happen I’m gonna laugh when they fire all the assistants and they end up teaching gym in elementary school.

  11. Alpheratz says: May 16, 2009 9:50 PM

    Wal Mart “exploits” people?
    Are they forcibly hiring people? What kind of stupid talk is that?

  12. festusmonroe says: May 17, 2009 8:44 AM

    “Wal Mart “exploits” people?
    Are they forcibly hiring people? What kind of stupid talk is that?”
    They run American companies out of business by selling cheap junk made overseas.

  13. festusmonroe says: May 17, 2009 10:16 AM

    “unions suck….see gm, chrysler, and the biggest lover of unions OBAMA ”
    To quote Mitch Albom: “You think only lawyers and hedge-fund kings deserve to live decently?”

  14. texasPHINSfan says: May 18, 2009 12:13 PM

    sorry but i can’t support them or the union idea. as others have said, unions kill business.
    they can cry about losing their pension fund, but an on-going pension fund is not sustainable in any business model. people need to realize this. legacy costs of the pension fund will overtake the revenues ANY business enterprise, even the NFL, can make. That is why every company that has ever had a pension has either gone out of business or is on the verge of doing so – including our government.
    you crying about job security? boo-hoo. none of the rest of us have it either. I have to grind away & do work in my daily job. i don’t make but a fraction of what these guys make, have zero job security, and i have to pay into a 401k if i want retirement. they previously had privileges that were just that – privileges, not a right.
    the purpose of unions when they were created were to protect workers rights. today, unions are there to protect the privileges.
    fact is unions are bad for business, and are largely unnecessary in this country in today’s age. anyone who disagrees with that is spoiled.

  15. SpartaChris says: May 18, 2009 12:25 PM

    superius says:
    May 16th, 2009 at 7:44 pm
    They also have zero job security. Even if they are doing a good job if a new coach comes on board they can lose their income in a heart beat because the new coach wants one of their guys.

    And they know that going in. The onus is on them to save as much money as possible knowing their employment with a given team is mid-term temporary as best. If they can’t plan for their future and put away for when/if times are lean, it’s their fault and no one else’s. That goes for everyone who earns a paycheck, not just people who make a lot of money.

    Assistants aren’t making the millions that Tom Brady is making either. Sure they are living an upper-class lifestyle but they don’t have a money bin in the back yard (like Scrooge McDuck) either. As for those people working at Walmart they are being exploited because our society permits it…because we want to pay $3.00 for a tin of coffee rather than $3.50. And the reason that coaches make a lot of money is also because of our society. Because rather than wanting to stand up for those being exploited at Walmart we are rushing off to buy $250.00 authentic jerseys and other NFL licensed merchandise. We’ve decided that we will reward NFL players with tons of money for entertaining us and that their jobs are important enough to warrant that type of money over Walmart employees, whatever it is I do and whatever it is that you do.

    No one’s holding a gun to the heads of people who work at Wal Mart. That type of job is entry level remedial work anyway. It isn’t intended (Nor should it be) to raise a family on. It’s designed for young people with no job skills to pay their way through school. The problem is more and more Americans expect to have the world in their hands without actually having to go out and earn it. So rather than going out and getting a degree and finding a higher paying job, working at places like Wal Mart become a career.

  16. SpartaChris says: May 18, 2009 12:43 PM

    festusmonroe says:
    May 17th, 2009 at 10:16 am
    To quote Mitch Albom: “You think only lawyers and hedge-fund kings deserve to live decently?”

    No, but I do expect people to work for and earn what they get. The American Dream is available for those who work for it. Unfortunately, it’s those last three words we Americans seem to take issue with anymore. Instead of accepting responsibility, we blame other people for our failures and we feel entitled to a life of privilege at the expense of those people. Like we’re owed some kind of grand living, even though we’ve done nothing in our lives.
    If you want it, go get it. Work for it, find a way to make it happen. Yes, it’s tough, but anything worth having is going to be hard. That’s why success isn’t for everybody.

  17. SpartaChris says: May 18, 2009 1:09 PM

    texasPHINSfan says:
    May 18th, 2009 at 12:13 pm
    sorry but i can’t support them or the union idea. as others have said, unions kill business.
    they can cry about losing their pension fund, but an on-going pension fund is not sustainable in any business model. people need to realize this. legacy costs of the pension fund will overtake the revenues ANY business enterprise, even the NFL, can make. That is why every company that has ever had a pension has either gone out of business or is on the verge of doing so – including our government.

    That’s a great point. Legacy costs alone are killing California. A huge reason for that is the increase in life expectancy. It used to be that one would live maybe another 20 or so years after retirement. Now people are living well past the retirement age, and as new employees step in to fill those jobs, the costs of pension plans is increasing exponentially. The only way to offset the costs is to continuously raise taxes on an endlessly struggling populace. Less money for you and me means more money for them. And people want to talk about fairness.
    Toss in the mismanagement of funds and you have the disaster we Californians presently enjoy. We’re on the verge of bankruptcy, and both of those reasons are why.

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