Labor Board Rules College Players Are Employees and Have the Right to Unionize

Back in January, Northwestern’s football players, led by former quarterback Kain Colter, filed a petition with the Chicago branch of the the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). They were assisted by the College Athletes Players’ Association or CAPA, a non-profit dedicated to advocating the right of college athletes.

The petition implores the NLRB to recognize the players as employees, giving them a right to unionize and join the NCAA and the Universities at the collective bargaining table.

Last week, the NLRB ruled in favor of the players. Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the NLRB in Chicago, wrote a 24-page report on the decision, citing the extensive time commitment (usually 40-50 hours/week), the special rules athletes must follow that non-athletes are exempt from, and their role in generating $235 million in revenue for the University between 2003 and 2012.

Colter speaking about the petition in January (Photo: Paul Beaty/AP)

The decision prompted an immediate statement of objection from the NCAA and Northwestern University has already said they will appeal the ruling. But for the time being, it seems the matter will lay solely in the hands of the NLRB, who ordered an election for the players’ union tomorrow (April 2)- all football players with remaining eligibility will be able to vote.

Colter will join CAPA president (and former UCLA linebacker) Ramogi Huma in Washington this week to try to gain support from Congress.

Public opinion is split on the issue, with 47% in favor of college players’ unions and 47% opposed.

Read the full story from ESPN here.

Feature image courtesy of David Banks/Getty Images.

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