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Northwestern officially asks National Labor Relations Board to overturn unionization ruling

Sam Cooper
Dr. Saturday
NCAA Football: New College Athletes Players Association-Press Conference
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Jan 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA United Steelworkers president Leo W. Gerard (left) and Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter during a press conference for CAPA College Athletes Players Association at Hyatt Regency. (Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)

In a move that was not unexpected, Northwestern has officially asked the National Labor Relations Board to overturn its March decision that ruled that Northwestern football players are employees and should have the opportunity to negotiate for rights and collectively bargain.

In a 55-page brief, which can be read here, Northwestern said that the NLRB’s Regional Director made an “unprecedented decision” that “set out to alter the underlying premise upon which collegiate varsity sports is based.”

The brief reads:

“By finding that Northwestern University’s football program is a commercial enterprise and that its football scholarship student-athletes are “employees” within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act, the Regional Director ignored the evidence of Northwestern’s primary commitment to the education of all of its student-athletes, evidence that fully supports that its student-athletes are primarily students, and not employees.”

In reference to former quarterback Kain Colter, who is currently pursuing a career in the NFL, Northwestern said that “based on the testimony of a single player who admitted that he aspires to play professional football, the Regional Director described Northwestern’s football program in a way that is unrecognizable from the evidence actually produced at the hearing.”

“Northwestern’s football program stands alone as the most successful FBS program for educating athletes to graduation. Whatever one thinks of athletics at other institutions, Northwestern presented overwhelming evidence establishing that its athletic program is fully integrated with its academic mission, and that it treats its athletes as students first.”

Northwestern also alleges that the Regional Director “ignored much of the record” and “misconstrued, disregarded and misapplied Board precedent.”

Northwestern’s players will vote whether or not to form a union on April 25, and quarterback Trevor Siemian made it clear Wednesday that he will vote against unionization.

“We filed for employee cards (Jan. 28), but that doesn’t mean a union is the right avenue,” said Siemian, who will be the starter this fall. “Especially at Northwestern, where most guys on the team agree we have been treated very, very well. I’m treated here far better than I deserve.”

Only current Northwestern players are eligible to vote. 

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