Sunday, March 23, 2014

A union for college football players?

Here's the story from ESPN a little while ago:

For the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are asking to be represented by a labor union, taking formal steps on Tuesday to begin the process of being recognized as employees.
Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, filed a petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern University, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board.
Backed by the United Steelworkers union, Huma also filed union cards signed by an undisclosed number of Northwestern players with the NLRB -- the federal statutory body that recognizes groups that seek collective bargaining rights.
And here's the CBS coverage: Road ahead for college football players union isn't an easy one

The obstacles members of the Northwestern University Wildcats football team face on the road to forming a union are formidable.

First,  there are a myriad of legal questions that need to be answered, such as is there an employer/employee relationship that exists between the players and the Evanston, Ill. school that meets the criteria set by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Northwestern, not surprisingly, argues that such a relationship doesn't exist. Whether the players can make such a claim against the NCAA, which seems to be the focus of their wrath and also is opposed to their efforts, also is unclear. The players, though, do have the backing of the NFL Players Association, the union that represents their counterparts in the pros.

"Most of the grievances cited by the players concern the NCAA as a monopolistic cartel that wields unbalanced and unreasonable labor market power against the players in terms of compensation and scholarship limitations among other issues," writes Vanderbilt University Economist John Vrooman, a former college football player who studies the economics of sports, in an email. "The issue here is that the NCAA is clearly a cartel but it is not necessarily the employer."

The other obstacle facing the players affiliated with the National College Football Players Association is a practical one. Since members of the team graduate, creating a cohesive bargaining unit will be difficult if have to frequently recruit new members. That's one of the reasons why efforts to unionize teaching assistants on college campuses have faltered.
Here's a report from the first days of hearings:

Are College Athletes Employees? Former Labor-Board Chairman Says Yes

Here's an earlier, related post:

College football is big business (who knew?)

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