Northwestern football players deemed employees by NLRB

Northwestern football players deemed employees by NLRB
March 26, 2014, 3:00 pm
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Vinnie Duber

Northwestern football players have been deemed employees by the National Labor Relations Board.

Wednesday, the Board announced its decision in the petition for Northwestern football players to form a union submitted by the National College Players Association with the backing of the College Athletes Players Association and the United Steelworkers, ruling that the players meet the qualifications to form a union.

While it’s just another step in a long process, it’s an important one.

“Players receiving scholarships to perform football-related services for the Employer under a contract for hire in return for compensation are subject to the Employer’s control and are therefore employees,” the NLRB said in its ruling.

[MORE: Kain Colter, Northwestern to fight NCAA 'dictatorship']

Though the university announced its intentions to appeal the decision, should it stand, Northwestern players — and players at the rest of the nation’s private schools — would be able to unionize and collectively bargain. CAPA’s current goals include seeking better protection and coverage of health care costs, scholarships to cover the full cost of attending college and financial aid when dealing with post-career health issues. Many speculate these goals could grow into those dealing with current student-athletes seeing a portion of the NCAA's enormous annual profits.

Colter tweeted out his reaction following the ruling.

Northwestern responded to the ruling with a statement of its own.

“Northwestern University is disappointed by today's ruling by the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board finding that Northwestern University's football players who receive grant-in-aid scholarships are employees and directing that a secret ballot election be held to determine whether the football players should be represented by the College Athletes Players Association for purposes of collective bargaining with Northwestern University.

[RELATED: A 'win' for Northwestern is a 'win' for private schools only]

“While we respect the NLRB process and the regional director's opinion, we disagree with it. 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.

“Northwestern plans to appeal today's decision to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. The University will continue to explore all of its legal options in regard to this issue.

“Northwestern considers its students who participate in NCAA Division I sports, including those who receive athletic scholarships, to be students, first and foremost. We believe that participation in athletic events is part of the overall educational experience for those students, not a separate activity.”