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Football players at Northwestern are not permitted to unionize


A long-standing controversy in college sports has swirled around the billions of dollars universities and conferences make on their sports programs without them paying anything to their student-athletes. The money comes mainly from broadcast contracts and the students playing NCAA division I sports are considered amateurs.

Union activists who have tried to organize students on campuses seemed to finally make some headway in March 2014 when an historic ruling by a regional National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) director in Chicago ruled that Northwestern University football players are effectively school employees and therefore are entitled to organize.

However, this historic ruling was overturned yesterday in a unanimous ruling by the NLRB five-member national board made up of three Democrats and two Republicans. Their 16-page ruling cited federal law and stated that unionized football players at Northwestern wouldn’t “promote the ‘uniformity’ and ‘stability’ between workers and management that it says is the goal of U.S. labor relations law.”

The NLRB board contends that the possibility of union and non-union teams could alter the competitive balance in college football. It did not, however, directly address whether or not football players are employees.

This new ruling applies to private schools although public universities don’t fall under the agency’s purview. Northwestern, a member of the Big Ten Conference is happy with the ruling, saying that it considers its students who participate in NCAA division I sports and those who are recipients of athletic scholarships to be students first and foremost.




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