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Hey! I’m a college athlete! Can I join a union?

According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), at least the football players at Northwestern University in Chicago may.  The NLRB,  is the independent agency of the federal government responsible for deciding questions of labor law under the National Labor Relations Act and investigating unfair labor practices.  In this ruling, the board found that the players who receive grants are “employees” because they receive compensation for their services and because they are subject to the direct control and rules of the employer. Other interesting factors in the decision are that the players can spend up to 60 hours per week performing football related activities; and that the university was more concerned with the players football activities than their academic activities.

This decision means that the players association will now be able to hold an election to elect its leadership and bargain collectively to advance their goals: according to the Boston Globe, these goals include “guaranteeing 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.”

What do you think about this issue?  We would love input from our labor lawyer friends on this decision!