In a landmark decision yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board concluded that student athletes receiving football grant-in-aid scholarships are considered employees of Northwestern University, and thereby have the right to hold an election to choose representation to collectively bargain with the university.
The petition was filed with the Board by the College Athletes Players Association.
The decision by the board cites a number of factors that lead to the decision to classify the student athletes as employees (using the common law definition of an employee), including a connection between the value of the grant-in-aid scholarships received by the student athletes in exchange for the services provided to the university, as well as certain examples of how the student athlete football players are subject to the control of the university in the performance of their duties as athletes.
The petition further makes an attempt to counter the parallel cases in the past in which other Universities had successfully denied petitions to unionize by graduate academic assistants. The key distinction between these cases appears to be that in prior petitions, the individuals in question were found to be “primarily students,” whereas in this petition, the students were deemed to be “football players” first.
Although it is anticipated that yesterday’s decision will be appealed/reviewed, it could have massive implications to Division I and II programs across the country.
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