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College football players can vote to unionize says NLRB director

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College football players at Northwestern University can form a union, says a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Conditions Met

A decision handed down by Peter Sung Ohr of NLRB Region 13. He says two key conditions have been met: Northwestern University's football players who receive grant-in-aid scholarships are found to be “employees” and the petitioned-for-unit was found to be an appropriate unit.

The university and football players have until Apr. 9, 2014 to file a request for review.

Ohr referenced a 1999 case involving the Boston Medical Center that determined employees, residents, and interns were employees.

Players as Employees

The decision stated that 85 of the 112 players on the team receive grant-in-aid totaling about $61, 000 dollars per academic year. Additionally, Ohr wrote in his decision that scholarship players and walk-ons are subject to rules that are separate from the rest of the student body.

The special rules referenced included the requirement to live in campus housing during freshman and sophmore years and the dress codes of wearing a suit to home games. He also cited a time commitment to the sport including the first week of August, regarded to be "the most demanding part of the season."

Outgoing quarterback Kain Colter took a leading role in establishing the College players Athletic Association with the United Steelworkers has been paying the legal bills.

Read more about the decision on the National Labor Relations Board website.

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