Northwestern University football players today won the right to form a union after National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Chicago Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr ruled the players “all squarely fall within the [National Labor Relations] Act's broad definition of 'employee' when one considers the common law definition of 'employee.'"
Northwestern University has indicated it will appeal the decision.
In January, quarterback Kain Colter, with the support of the United Steelworkers (USW), filed with the NLRB union authorization cards from the players seeking to join the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA).
During a series of recent NLRB hearings, the university argued against the players’ right to form a union, claiming they were not employees and thus ineligible. But ESPN.com’s Brian Bennett writes that Ohr “cited the players' time commitment to their sport and the fact their scholarships were tied directly to their performance as reasons for granting them union rights.”
USW President Leo W. Gerard says:
This ruling is a tremendous victory, not just for the athletes at Northwestern, but ultimately for all college athletes, many of whom generate tens of millions of dollars each year for their institutions, yet still are in constant danger of being out on the street with one accident or injury.
CAPA President Ramogi Huma told Bennett, “I just have so much respect for Kain and the football players who stood up in unity to take this on. They love their university but they think it's important to exercise rights under labor law.” He adds:
The NCAA invented the term student athlete to prevent the exact ruling that was made today. For 60 years, people have bought into their notion that they are students only. The reality is, players are employees and today's ruling confirms that. The players are one giant's step closer to justice.