Game Changer — College Football Players May Unionize

By March 28, 2014Articles

In a stunning decision issued by a Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board, the agency granted the Northwestern University football players the right to unionize. The “College Athletes Players Association”, a new union led by outgoing quarterback Kain Colter, petitioned the Board for a ruling that the university’s football team could form a union and if so, for the Board to order an election in which the players may vote on whether to be represented by CAPA for collective bargaining purposes.

The Board ruled affirmatively on both issues, predicating its decision on a factual finding that NW scholarship football team players meet the definition of an “employee” under the Act. In exchange for compensation in the form of grant-in-aid athletic scholarships averaging more than $60,000 in cash value per player per year, the Regional Director concluded that each player essentially worked for and was under the control of the team’s coaches and staff in terms of their extensive year-round practice, conditioning and game schedule, travel and team commitments, code of conduct and housing arrangements. And that because the team generated over $200 million dollars in revenue in last 10 years, the team was considered a commercial enterprise of the university.

This ruling—if upheld—and if CAPA wins the representation election, will allow NW football players as a discrete bargaining unit to engage in collective bargaining with the university over all matters relating to wages, working conditions and benefits—including player compensation, scholarships, health insurance, workers compensation coverage, retirement plans, living arrangements, vacation pay, training schedules and perhaps revenue sharing.

The overall impact of college athletes unionizing (should this decision be upheld after all appeals are exhausted by NW), will dramatically alter, if not completely wipeout, the current landscape of college sports. Stay tuned.

To read the NLRB decision, click here: NLRB College Football Decision and Direction of Election