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Could the Profession benefit from having a union?

Hi everyone!
I've thought about this for a while and would like to get some thoughts about the idea of an athletic training union. The NATA is great as a professional association geared towards offering ideas and suggestions (and has done very tangible work), but rarely can it demand the type of changes I see and hear a lot of my colleagues speak of needing.

Do you guys think something like this is possible?
What would it look like?
Can it be incorporated into the NATA?

Best Answer

  • Accepted Answer
    Is there a precedent for Healthcare professionals unionizing? Here in St. Louis, most of the area ATs are members of a list serve called SLATA. It's used to communicate social events, post job and PRN opportunities, and discuss legislation. It's also been crucial in getting Stl area ATs on the same page in accepting spot coverage PRN positions. After several years, it's become common knowledge how much it's going to cost to have an AT cover your event. Not a true union, but regarding fair pay, it functioned similarly.


  • That's a great question and something I hadn't considered but will definitely look into. Thanks for replying! I've noticed other areas with similar contingencies, whether formally organized or not. I've also considered if it would have to be or look different depending on the setting. I'm interested in giving ATCs more leverage and power to determine our own fate, rather than waiting or pleading for the goodwill of others to do right by us.
  • I too have contemplated what unionizing would do/not do for ATs. ATs stretch from coast to coast, north to south, and globally even though they may go by a different name but we all have a common goal. If you look at different unions, they have one main chapter and many subsections as well. The NATA is the same way: the NATA, then the districts. Those districts have states and the states have organizations within the states as well. The first issue I see is that we do not have a set pay scale. Young professionals will settle for an $18,000/year salary right out of college. Now in some parts of the country that may be a salary that is enough to get by; however, in others it may not be. However, if one person/college is willing to pay/accept that salary then other places in the country will use that method in order to save themselves money. We are worth a lot more than that and well beyond what many of us do. It is a matter of us, as ATs, knowing our self-worth and our employers treating us as such. We hear all the time how important ATs are to athletics yet employers are not paying us as such. Although ATs are an already united group of people, when we can all be heard collectively on this topic, much change will not take place.
  • Many years ago, I think it was at a NATA convention in Indianapolis, there was an AT who had worked for Workfit in Detroit. He said then (paraphrase) "I am going to suggest something that many of you might be thoroughly against. A Union." I have come to believe that a union might be a good place to continue to determine our own destinies. The grassroots movements that resulted in all but one state achieving a credential for ATs (thank you, AhNowld and Jerry) has been a great start. Also, everybody needs to get their NPI numbers. This can help identify the sheer numbers of AT practitioners when we go to Washington and State legislatures and lobby for equitable treatment and legislation to facilitate improvements in the protection and compensation for ATs.
    That said, I believe that the next major thrust should be to align ourselves very closely with our physicians and work to get ATEPs into the health profession departments of our respective universities, rather than the HPER, Kinesiology, or other similar departments from which we arose. I suspect that then and only then will we fully fit in with the rest of the heath care world, once the nrsing students, and medical students, and PT students can see us walking the very same hallways and sitting in the very same classrooms a they do. THE UPCOMING UPGRADE TO PROFESSIONAL ENTRY AT THE MASTER'S LEVEL IS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY TO CAMPAIGN FOR THIS PARADIGM SHIFT!
  • I definitely think that it would benefit the profession to have some sort of union/org. in each district to manage the salary issues within each district. I understand that we as AT's need to know our worth and not accept jobs offering low salaries such as 18k a year. But realistically, as a mid 20's AT, what else am I supposed to do? I have quiet a few colleagues that also feel the "cornered" mindset. So jobs are taken because there are hardly any other options. In California for instance, we have the CATA fighting to make us licensed... but I have not really seen any CATA action in talking to school districts or companies hiring AT's to establish or negotiate salaries. Every position I have held, I have been fighting alone for an increased salary/hours and its very discouraging to not feel like there is an organization to also fight for me. I have seen it compared to the teachers union. Yes of course there is no guarantee of increased salary but to know there is something I can be a part of that will help on a state level instead of just the national level would be nice.
  • I do not think a union is practical. We simply are so diverse in job environments. Perhaps those working in NCAA environment ts can standardize the AT jobs. I am open minded and would like to see realistic discussion. However we must be careful that by unionizing we don't simply become a health care worker and limit our scope of future services.
  • I have thought of this for years. It could be useful for those in states that allow unions but in those that don't probably wouldn't help. There is already a precedent set as the ATs working in public schools are in a union. I feel something like this needs to be done to address wages and working conditions for ATs. Unfortunately the leadership at the national office has been unwilling to address this issue and get in the fight. They had a chance years ago when this was a very hot issue in the profession and when several Ats went to court to challenge the fair labor and standards act. At that time the NATA leadership made a conscious decision not to get involved and it ultimately hurt ATs. When I brought this up 2 years ago at an educators conference Scott Sailor said he didn't think it was a good idea. Unfortunately there are still many of the old guard out there that wear low pay and long hours as some kind of a badge of courage. I unfortunately use to be one of those guys until I realized the error of my ways. ATs have for too long not respected themselves as professionals working for a t-shirt and free meals for camps and tournaments. I have seen that $25 an hour is a common wage across the country for covering events and this is completely unacceptable. The ATs organized in Austin Texas when I was there in 1994 and agreed we would not take less than $25/hr. At first the organizers didn't like it and tried shopping around for a better price but the ATs held firm and eventually they came to realize that $25/hr was the price no matter what AT you called, but that was in 1994! We haven't seemed to raise the price much if any since then. Unfortunately many school districts and institutions are paying this or less. We have been our own worst enemy when it comes to wages and hours. We need to organize somehow to address this issue and it is very important now that we are going to a Masters level degree. There is going to be much more fallout from this move that people have either not thought about or not addressed that is going to effect this issue but that is for another discussion. If ATs don't find some way to have an organized voice we will be struggling with low pay and long hours without additional compensation for years to come.
  • edited February 2017
    I'm glad we are recognizing differences between an association and a union. In discussions we often find members are looking for someone to assist them in contract negotiations, position benefits and assistance in dealing with difficult situations. By definition, this is not the role of the NATA. I think lots of discussion needs to be had to understand the ability of a union to assist, but I think we start with understanding a union vs an association and that each person has their own union and is their own advocate and then help them with tools to do that. The NATA has resources to assist people in this position but I do not think as a whole the association understands the difference and that they are the first person in their own union. This would be a great article in the NATA News. Imandva few others are presenting at RMATA on similar ideas. Join us if you are in Denver in late March.
    [email protected]
    Post edited by David Gallegos on
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