March 28, 2014
NLRB in Chicago says athletes are workers with union rights
The North Carolina State AFL-CIO released the following statement from President James Andrews in response to yesterday’s ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Chicago that football players at Northwestern University qualify as employees under federal law and are thus eligible to form a union.
“This is a historic victory for college athletes everywhere, including here in North Carolina, where they generate tremendous wealth for college athletics programs and conferences that have treated them as little more than assets.
“That ends now, as it should, because the simple fact of the matter is that the only ones in the NCAA not getting paid are the athletes who make it all possible. It is greed and exploitation, pure and simple.
“College athletes have legitimate interests at stake – including the safety of their sports, providing medical care for injuries, keeping their scholarships, and graduating with a quality education. Simple fairness should dictate that they have the right to organize to defend and advocate for those interests.”
Brian Bennett writing for ESPN.com said that NLRB Regional Director Peter 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.”
“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.”
College Athletes Professional Association (CAPA) President Ramogi Huma told ESPN.com that “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.”
Until now, decision-making in college athletics has been largely the domain of coaches, athletic departments, and the athletic conferences to which colleges and universities belong.
Now thanks to this decision by the NLRB, college athletes will have the right to get organized and have their voices heard as well. College athletics can only be made stronger by giving voice to the athletes who make it all possible.