A group of Northwestern University football players are appearing before the National Labor Relations Board today to explain why they want to unionize.
Some scholarship student athletes at Northwestern say they are no different than professional athletes. Because of their efforts, they say, they bring in millions of dollars to the university, yet have no say in their working conditions.
But the university says the scholarships are incentives to help the students go to college and further their education. The university says the players are first and foremost students, and they are not employees.
Now the whole matter is before the NLRB which will determine whether or not the students will be able to unionize.
85 members of the football team have signed cards indicating that they are hoping to form a union. But school officials oppose the action, saying that the players are students, not employees, and therefore are not eligible to unionize.
“You can be an employee of the university and be a student,” said John Adam, an attorney with the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA). “When the football program takes extensive time from these athletes, that’s what they’re devoted to. And the fact that they are also students does not mean they’re not entitled to the protections of labor law.”
“The health consequences of football is a national issue,” said Bob Rowley, Northwestern University Director of Media Relations. “We believe they should have a say in it. We just don’t believe that the proper way is through a labor negotiation. We think they’re students.”
Both sides are in front of the NLRB today, making their cases for and against union representation.
The outcome could be monumental, opening the floodgates and drawing in schools everywhere.
Next week both sides will be back in front of a hearing examiner. For three days they will have a chance to argue their positions.
A decision is not expected for weeks, possiibly months thereafter.