Report: Northwestern union ruling expected soon

Tuesday August 11th, 2015

The National Labor Relations Board is expected to rule later this month on determining if Northwestern scholarship football players are university employees, reports the Chicago Tribune

Northwestern University had appealed a decision in March 2014 by Peter Ohr, the regional director of the NLRB in Chicago, which stated Northwestern scholarship football players are university employees, allowing them to form a union.

The players voted on whether they wanted to unionize and be represented by the College Athletes Players Association, which was co-founded by former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and is headed by former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma.

Those votes have yet to be counted, and if the NLRB reserves the decision, the ballots will be destroyed. The ballots will be counted if that decision is affirmed. 

In his decision, Ohr cited a 1995 case which determined the broad definition of an employee. That decision states “under the common law definition, an employee is a person who performs services for another under a contract of hire, subject to the other’s control or right of control, and in return for payment.” 

SI's preseason top 25

That case, NLRB v. Town & Country Electric, said that “individuals can meet the definition of employee even if they are paid by a union to organize a non-union company while on company payroll.”

Ohr argued that when football players sign a “contract” or letter of intent, it stipulates the conditions they must uphold to keep an athletic scholarship, saying the scholarship is a form of payment. 

Colter had previously testified that "there's no way around" the fact that football is a "job," which forced him to drop his pre-med course load because of the 50-60 hour football workweeks.

The NCAA disagreed with the union's decision, saying that the student-athletes they talk to participate in sports for love of the game, not to be paid. 

“The NCAA is disappointed that the NLRB Region 13 determined the Northwestern football team may vote to be considered university employees. We strongly disagree with the notion that student-athletes are employees," the NCAA said. 

Northwestern officials feel that collective bargaining is not the way to address concerns brought on by student-athletes.

- Scooby Axson

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.