CHICAGO — A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that a group of Northwestern football players were employees of the university and have the right to form a union and bargain collectively.
For decades, the major college sports have functioned on the bedrock principle of the student-athlete, with players receiving scholarships to pay for their education in exchange for their hours of practicing and competing for their university. But Peter Ohr, the regional N.L.R.B. director, tore down that familiar construct in a 24-page decision.
He ruled that Northwestern’s scholarship football players should be eligible to form a union based on a number of factors, including the time they devote to football (as many as 50 hours some weeks), the control exerted by coaches and their scholarships, which Mr. Ohr deemed a contract for compensation.
“It cannot be said that the employer’s scholarship players are ‘primarily students,’ ” the decision said.
“College Players Granted Right to Form Unions,” Ben Strauss and Steve Eder
This is too good to be true and I would bet money that it gets overturned. Or, alternately, the university will file appeal after appeal, hoping to out spend and out live the students. The University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana did this for nearly a decade when the graduate students organized. (The graduate student union, the GEO, is doing well and helping to organize faculty, too.) Universities hate that–cheap labor is essential to the status quo–but I imagine that they will hate this even more. How dare these students challenge the greatest cash cow that any institution has ever seen!