On Wednesday the debate to determine if Northwestern football players should be considered employees of the university continues. Northwesern quarterback Kain Colter had his chance to testify with his case on Tuesday, and a petition to the National Labor Relations Board has been filed to request the right to hold a union election for Northwestern football players. An official ruling by the NLRB could be made within the next month, according to a report by MSNBC.
“In order for that petition to be valid and result in an election, they have to be employees, and that’s the issue the region is currently holding a hearing on,” Martin Malin, a labor law and professor at Illinois Institute of Technology, said. The NCAA continues to stand by their rejection of the labor union concept, suggesting it undermines the point of a student-athlete.
As a reminder, this is not going to develop overnight even if the NLRB rules in favor of the players and their right to hold an election. This continues to be a small step forward on a long journey for the players. The university holds a right to appeal any decision, and a number of hurdles still remain. If the NLRB rules in favor fo the players they still have to hold an election, and that may only happen after an appeal from the university is settled and again supports the players. If the election process is completed, a formal contract must be drafted and approved by the players union and university. If the university refuses to recognize the players union, the players would have to file for unfair labor practices.
“I would assume at that point the university would want to contest the determination that they [the players] are employees in court,” said Malin. “And to do that, the university would refuse to meet with the union. That would prompt the union to file an unfair labor practice charge alleging that the university refused to bargain in good faith.”
If you think things are ugly now, just wait. It could get a lot worse before anything gets better.