Northwestern Football Players Seek Labor Union Status

Kain ColterNorthwestern University football players are pushing to be officially recognized as a labor union.

Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed paperwork in Chicago at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday on behalf of Northwestern football players, taking the first steps toward the players being recognized as a collective group with a voice, according to a report from ESPN’s Outside The Lines.

“This is about finally giving college athletes a seat at the table,” Huma said. “Athletes deserve an equal voice when it comes to their physical, academic and financial protections.”

Huma is a former UCLA linebacker who created the NCPA as an advocacy group in 2001.

The effort by Northwestern players was started by former quarterback Kain Colter, who reached out to Huma last spring. He asked for help in giving athletes representation as they seek scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance, better concussion and medical protection, multiyear scholarships that are guaranteed even if a player is no longer able to compete and a trust fund that would help players finish their education. The United Steelworkers union, the largest industrial union in North America, is supporting the efforts and would provide technical support for the group.

“The action we’re taking isn’t because of any mistreatment by Northwestern,” Colter said. “We love Northwestern. The school is just playing by the rules of their governing body, the NCAA. We’re interested in trying to help all players — at USC, Stanford, Oklahoma State, everywhere. It’s about protecting them and future generations to come.”

If the players’ group is approved by the national labor board, the union would be called the College Athletes Players Association and would be founded by Huma, Colter and Luke Bonner, a former UMass basketball player.

“A lot of people will think this is all about money. It’s not,” Colter said, via the Chicago Tribune. “We’re asking for a seat at the table to get our voice heard.”

The NCAA released a statement, saying it is confident the labor board will side with college sports’ governing body.

“This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education,” the statement said. “Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.

“Many student-athletes are provided scholarships and many other benefits for their participation. There is no employment relationship between the NCAA, its affiliated institutions or student-athletes.

“Student-athletes are not employees within any definition of the National Labor Relations Act or the Fair Labor Standards Act. We are confident the National Labor Relations Board will find in our favor, as there is no right to organize student-athletes.”

Photo via Facebook/Northwestern Wildcats Football

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