Chicago: Northwestern University football players seek to unionize

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Chicago: Northwestern University football players seek to unionize

For the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union, taking formal steps on Tuesday to begin the process of being recognized as employees. Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Backed by the United Steelworkers union, Huma also filed union cards signed by an undisclosed number of Northwestern players with the NLRB -- the federal statutory body that recognizes groups that seek collective bargaining rights. ESPN's "Outside The Lines" first broke the story. "This is about finally giving college athletes a seat at the table," said Huma, a former UCLA linebacker who created the NCPA as an advocacy group in 2001. "Athletes deserve an equal voice when it comes to their physical, academic and financial protections."


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

This is definitely a cool story. NCAA had a predictable response

This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education. Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.

Many student athletes are provided scholarships and many other benefits for their participation. There is no employment relationship between the NCAA, its affiliated institutions or student-athletes.

Student-athletes are not employees within any definition of the National Labor Relations Act or the Fair Labor Standards Act. We are confident the National Labor Relations Board will find in our favor, as there is no right to organize student-athletes.



I found this little tidbit from the ESPN article interesting as well.

Athletes playing for university-based teams are not considered employees by any legal body. They haven't been since 1953, when the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a determination by the state Industrial Commission that a football player at the University of Denver was an "employee" within the context of the Colorado workers' compensation statute.

As a result, the university was responsible to provide workers' compensation for his football injuries. The NCAA responded by coining the term "student-athlete" and mandating its use by universities. Use of that term, and other efforts to enforce the idea that athletes cannot also be employees, ramped up as the NCAA a few years later introduced athletic scholarships, a form of compensation for services provided.

Basically the whole idea of "student-athlete" was created by the NCAA to get out of paying benefits to players who got hurt while playing and couldn't work afterward. The concept of "Student athlete" is a crock. Players perform a service for their schools, which makes the school buckets of money, and in return the players receive scholarships and room and board. Kind of like Residence Fellows, in fact.


Update - the athletes win recognition as employees, union election to go forward.

[url= Illustrated: Northwestern athletes win NLRB case[/url]


I'm always glad, as a conservative, to find an issue I agree with babblers on.  I fully support these players in their drive to unionize, since they are employees just as much as the clerical staff, except that are more exploited and have fewer benefits.  The commentor who said that they make buckets of money for the institutions is wrong, however.  A recent study showed that only a few do, and since they are enormously expensive to run, they are a dead loss at many places, to say nothing of their effect on educational integrity.  Someone commenting in the Journal of Higher Education put it well:

"I have said for more years than I care to count that the pretense that Division I football players are really students should come to an end; that they should be hired in the manner of semi-pro players to play for good old blah blah and take courses should they want to. A Stanford president (whose name I have forgotten) made the same suggestion around 1905. Perhaps this NLRB ruling will lead to that result and (slowly, to be sure) bring to a close widespread and deep institutional hypocrisy."