Last month, Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that scholarship football players at Northwestern University were employees of the university and able to vote whether they wanted to form and join a union at the school. The election occurred today, but the results are impounded until the Board issues a decision affirming, modifying, or reversing the Regional Director’s decision.
This case represents the first time that the Board has ruled scholarship student athletes are employees of a university. This decision, criticized as being an overreach of authority and inconsistent with the law, raised many questions regarding the treatment of student athletes as employees. For example, will their scholarships be taxed like a paycheck; will injured employees receive workers compensation; and will students be able to force coaches be negotiate practice schedules, food served at team meals, and travel arrangements?
Because of the tremendous implications this ruling has for all private universities with scholarship athletes, the Board will invite interested parties to file amicus briefs before ruling on Northwestern’s appeal. A decision by the Board, and a counting of the votes, will likely coincide with the beginning of the college football season. As always, Roetzel labor relations attorneys will keep you updated on the latest developments.