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Ear to the Ground

Ruling: Student Athletes Are Employees, Can Join Union

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Posted on Mar 26, 2014

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Northwestern University football players have asked for the right to join a union, and Wednesday the Chicago region of the National Labor Relations Board decided they could.

Because they spend long hours playing for the school, and because their scholarships, which are worth tens of thousands of dollars a year, are based on performance, the students are in fact employees, the board decided. As such, they are entitled to bargain collectively for workplace protections and, perhaps, financial compensation.

Needless to say, the NCAA, the regional conferences and the schools, all of which profit from the multibillion dollar college athletics industry, are against the idea.

“While improvements need to be made, we do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college,” said Donald Remy of the NCAA (as quoted by ESPN).

The decision comes in the midst of March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball tournament whose current TV deal alone is worth $10.8 billion.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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