In the wake of a ruling by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board that they qualify as employees under federal law, Northwestern football players are voting Friday on whether to form the nation's first union for college athletes. Some questions and answers:
Q: Who can vote?
A: Only scholarship athletes currently active in football at Northwestern can vote. That's 76 players. Outgoing players whose eligibility is exhausted, walk-ons and recruits not yet enrolled cannot vote.
Q: How many votes to pass?
A: The would-be union must secure a majority of the votes cast - so, 50 percent plus one. A tie goes to the employer. There's no minimal number of participants in an election to make it valid.
Q: When will the results of the vote be released?
A: It could take months or even years. Northwestern is appealing last month's ruling that the players have a right to unionize. The NLRB will seal the ballot boxes until after the appeals process runs its course and a time-consuming court fight is a possibility.
Q: If the players vote no, can another vote be held?
A: Yes. But the pro-union side has to wait a year before trying again.
Q: Can the results be challenged?
A: Yes, either side can seek to have the results invalidated. Among the grounds for doing so is evidence that either the employer or union forces tried to influence the vote by threatening players or promising them gifts.
Source: National Labor Relations Board, case page: http://www.nlrb.gov/case/13-RC-121359