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NLRB allows college players to unionize

In a move that will totally change the scheme of collegiate athletics, the National Labor Relations Board ruled today that the Northwestern football players are, in fact, employees of the university and therefore can vote to unionize.

On the NLRB website, it states that on this day Regional Director, Peter Sung Ohr, has issued a Decision in 13-RC-121359 finding the Grant-in-aid scholarship football players are employees under the NLRA and has directed an election to take place.

The parties have until April 9, 2014 to file with the Board in Washington, D.C. a Request to Review a Decision.

In his decision, Director Ohr wrote that players “fall squarely within the (National Labor Relation) Act’s broad definition of employee when one considers the common law definition of employee”.

The university issued a statement that it will appeal the decision saying that “Northwestern believes strongly that our student athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student athletes.”

NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy, while strongly disagreeing with the decision, also objected to the implicit favor of athletics over scholarship saying that ‘we want student athletes-99 percent of whom will never make it to the professional leagues-focused on what matters most; finding success in the classroom ,on the filed and in life.”

In a drive that’s was led by former quarterback Kain Colter and the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) and has the United Steelworkers Union footing the legal bills, it’s said the nearly all of the 85 players on the roster support unionizing, although not publicly as Colter has.

Ramogi Huma, president of both CAPA and the National College Players Association stated that “the NCAA invented the term student athlete to prevent the exact ruling that was made today. For sixty years, people haven bought into the notion that they are students only. The reality is players are employees, and today’s ruling confirms that.”

Some specific goals sought include guaranteed coverage of sports-related medical expenses for current and former players, better procedures to reduce and identify head injuries and the right to pursue commercial sponsorships.

Brief in support of players
Brief in support of Northwestern
The NLRB Decision

Source:, Northwestern players get union vote, Brian Bennett, March 26, 2014; The National Labor Relations Board, Office of Public Affairs, NLRB Director for Region 13 issues Decision in Northwestern University Athletes Case, March 26, 2012

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