NLRB Out of Control — Rules College Athletes as Employees and Can Form Unions

March 27, 2014

The "hits' just keep on coming. On March 26, 2014 a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board determined that football players at Northwestern University qualify as employees under federal law and therefore can create the nation's first college athletes union.

Obviously, the decision has the potential of drastically changing the landscape of college athletics, but in addition employers need to understand there is a full out assault on our nation's employers. The ruling is very concerning to the NCAA for obvious reasons as it may ultimately change the landscape of college athletics.

The lesson for employers is that the Act itself (NLRA), other regulations, and case law are up for grabs as this rogue agency is overstepping boundaries. So who or what's next in their mission to open up avenues for unionization-which by the way, is at an all time low.

As to the specifics of this case, this group of football players initiating the action call themselves the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA). Their attorneys argued that college football is a commercial enterprise that relies on players' labor to generate billions of dollars in profits. They contend that makes the relationship of schools to players one of employers to employees. The United Steelworkers union has been paying the legal bills for the CAPA.

The stated goals of the CAPA include guaranteed coverage of sports-related medical expenses for current and former players, ensuring better procedures to reduce head injuries, and potentially letting players pursue commercial sponsorships.

For its part, Northwestern University officials maintain that their student-athletes are not employees, but students. They are of the opinion that unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by the student-athletes. The school plans to appeal the decision to labor authorities in Washington, D. C. and the decision will be litigated for some time to come.

Over SESCO's 68 year history, SESCO has been known and recognized as the country's labor relations experts. We have assisted thousands of employers from all industries and sizes in training leaders in union awareness/avoidance, directed countless successful union organizing campaigns and negotiated hundreds of labor contracts. SESCO is aggressive in our approach against unions and if you have someone assisting who isn't willing to take on the union head-on, we are your firm.