Case Study: What Northwestern Football Union Means For College Sports

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What The Northwestern Football Union Means For College Sports On the surface, a union for football players at Northwestern seems like a limited development. But thanks to new precedent, and some union-friendly state laws, college athletes could start banding nationwide. A collection of college football players at Nothwestern University and other high-profile schools, fed up with a system that enriches people involved with the game but not the actual talent on the field, started a solidarity movement last September. They wrote the initials APU — All Players United — on their wristbands during that week’s games. Just six months later, that seemingly quaint gesture could go down as a milestone in the escalating fight over how to define and compensate…show more content…
The NLRB only regulates private institutions, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I teams are dominated by big state schools. In this year’s Sweet 16, for example, only two schools – the University of Dayton and Baylor University — are private. Of the 128 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), just 17 — or 13.2% — are private. And since the NLRB is treating scholarship aid as player compensation, should a cut of player scholarships go to the government? Northwestern will appeal the ruling to the full NLRB board in Washington, but experts say the ruling is likely to stand. “I think the regional director’s decision is a sound one,” says William Gould, a Stanford law professor who chaired the NLRB from 1994 to 1998. “I expect the board in Washington to uphold it.” Expect the union movement to expand. Athletes at public schools are subject to state labor law, and Gould points to California as a union-friendly state for athletes. California’s student-employee test, for example, asks: are the services rendered related to the student’s educational objectives? As the NLRB ruling — and common sense — point outs, scholarship football players aren’t tackling opponents in a classroom. The services rendered are related to a school’s economic objectives. So players may be called…show more content…
But the Florida Constitution enshrines collective bargaining for public employees as a fundamental right under Florida law, and in the public sector, a full 27.8% of Florida workers are covered by union contracts. The robust constitutional and statutory protections afforded public workers under state law, coupled with the dramatic profits earned from Division I football in Florida, create a favorable playing field for college athletes seeking to unionize. But perhaps most importantly, the idiosyncratic history of disputes over the “employee” status of students on Florida campuses has established legal precedent extraordinarily favorable to student-workers. As a result, “the rights of graduate assistants to bargain collectively — and perhaps, by analogy, the rights of college athletes to do the same—“are now more secure in Florida than in any other

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