Labor Board: Northwestern University Football Players Can Unionize

As of Wednesday, and according to the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, football players are employees. For the players at Northwestern University this is good news because they can now unionize. The players petitioned in order to increase their bargaining power in the college sports arena. The ruling could change the landscape of the NCAA. In response to the petition, Northwestern University claimed that their players are not employers, they are students.

The board’s decision that the players should be classified as employees was based on several factors:

·       Athletes at the university get “paid” in scholarships
·       They work between 20 and 50 hours/week
·       They generate millions of dollars of revenue for the university

Players claimed the reason behind their petition was to receive better medical coverage (including concussion testing), four-year scholarships and the potential for outright payment for athletic services.

Northwestern plans to appeal. Richard Epstein, labor law professor at New York University, said the ruling has “vast implications for the structure of the sport, if upheld.” Individuals opposing the board’s decision claim that while the reform issues players are looking to address may be appropriate, unionizing may not be the best method of achieving change in this instance because of the negative effect it could have on the success of Northwestern athletics. An appeal would likely take years to resolve.

The NCAA responded to the issue by saying that, while it wasn’t directly involved in the proceedings, it didn’t agree with the decision of the board and disagreed with the idea that student athletes should be classified as employees.

For up to date information on the issue or to discuss other current affairs related to employment status, wage issues, etc. contact the experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik today