We saw this coming, but that doesn’t make it any less of a shock. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled Wednesday that “Northwestern University football players on scholarship are employees of the school and therefore entitled to hold an election to decide whether to unionize.”
So now scholarships count as salaries? Does that mean anyone on scholarship can be counted as an employee of the school?
Will players be able to negotiate how long their practices are? Whether they only travel in first class? Whether the meal plan is generous enough? Whether they deserve off campus housing? And on and on and on. It’s a slippery slope.
Wednesday’s ruling is a potential game-changer for not only the world of college sports, but for how much authority Big Labor has in pushing its agenda on college campuses nationwide. According to a piece from The Chicago Tribune, this decision “opens the door for athletes with scholarships at public universities to move more quickly to unionize because state labor boards, which govern public universities, usually follow labor law interpretations issued by the NLRB.”
It also leaves several questions unanswered, including whether student-athletes “should be treated as employees under the state Workers’ Compensation Act” should they be injured and demand compensation.
In response, Northwestern University officials released a statement saying they strongly believe their athletes to be students, not employees, which is only logical. After all, they are on scholarship to play football and study; they are not “hired,” and they do not receive a salary, benefits or anything else that comes with traditional employment. Northwestern went on to reiterate that “unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes.”
Leading the effort to unionize Northwestern football players is the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), a union “backed by the United Steelworkers, which is covering the group’s legal expenses.” So that’s where Big Labor’s big money is going – not to protecting the workers in their own union (steelworkers), but to funding completely unrelated unionization efforts.
This is just further proof that Big Labor is more concerned with pushing their pro-unionization agenda than they are with representing the workers paying into their system.
Prediction: these student athletes are about to get a real education about how Washington works by the time the NLRB gets done with them. You can bet they’ll learn where they have to send the check for union dues.
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