Athletes at state schools in North Carolina now have the opportunity to join a union. Yes, long before any decision has been made in the Northwestern union case.
The State Employees Association of North Carolina deemed Friday that athletes at North Carolina's 17 public schools could join its union. And unlike the ruling at Northwestern, players would be able to choose themselves whether or not they'd like to join – there's no vote required.
''I don't know if I'd necessarily say they haven't been treated fairly,'' Charles Johnson, a shift captain at Raleigh's maximum-security Central Prison and a board member of SEANC for over 20 years told the AP. ''But I don't think they're represented as a collective group, student-athletes as a whole. I don't think they've been represented and I don't think there's a structure in place that looks out for them individually.''
If an athlete wanted to join the union, all he or she has to do is pay $9 in dues a month to the group, which is open to employees like teachers and corrections officers working for state entities.
After a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern players were employees of the school and had a right to form a union, the players were required to vote on a union April 25. Because the NCAA appealed the ruling of the NLRB, the results of the union vote won't be known until the appeals process is over.
SEANC also said the incorporation of athletes was in the planning and development stage outside of the decision to allow them to join.
Former North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour told that AP that "any step toward treating (athletes as employees is a step in the wrong direction.
''If they want to join that association, I don't think there would be any penalty for it - I can't imagine there would be,'' Baddour said. ''Maybe there's something there that I'm failing to see. I just don't see the impact of it.''
We'll see in the future if any athletes decide to take advantage of the SEANC's offer. But even if no one does, it's big step to complement the Northwestern movement. Because of state labor laws, any eventual Northwestern ruling is only applicable to private schools. But decision by the North Carolina employees association shows that union availability for athletes at state schools may be much easier than it is at private schools when it was thought to be harder.
Of course, the million-dollar question of what impact unions would have on college athletics still remains. However, it's another option. And as we've said before, as the athlete-school relationship starts to evolve, the more options, the better.
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