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Northwestern University athletes fight for unionization

Northwestern University Football Stadium
Northwestern University Football Stadium

Northwestern University football players and Northwestern University are enthralled in a disagreement before a National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday. The outcome of the dispute could mean extreme changes in college athletics, according to an ESPN report on Wednesday.

The football players at Northwest University want to form a union for its athletes. The question before the Board is whether the University athletes are employee-athletes who have the right to unionize and bargain for benefits or if they are student-athletes – which the NCAA and Northwestern University claim.

Ramogi Huma, who is the president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition at Chicago’s regional office of the National Labor Relations Board on Jan. 28 for the athletes.

Following Wednesday’s initial statements and future schedules set at the hearing, the next gathering of both sides of the issue will be on Feb. 18. It will be several months, however, before decisions are made on the case. Naturally, after the decision is made in favor of the University or in favor of the athletes, there will likely be appeals which will lengthen the process.

Thus far, Northwestern University’s adamantly asserting, via its labor attorney Joe Wilson, the University believes the student-athletes are not employees but students – which does not give them the right to unionize.

The 85 athletes who signed on to the proceedings say that the principle relationship between the athletes and the university is financial and economic – not academic. On the athlete’s side of the issue, it is said that playing football and basketball is completely unrelated to the athletes’ course of study and that the athletes’ performances for the University are economic and not educational.

The battle between the two sides of the issue continues.

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