Rep. Jan Schakowsky D-Ill., whose congressional district includes Northwestern University, applauded on Thursday the National Labor Relations Board ruling allowing NU football players the right to form a union and urged other teams to try to “replicate” the Wildcats success.
A regional NLRB director ruled that NU football players are employees and allowed a union election for the 85 scholarship players. NU said it will appeal the ruling.
Schakowsky, whose 9th congressional district takes in Evanston, the home of NU’s main campus, said in a statement, “I am pleased with the NLRB ruling that correctly recognizes Northwestern football players as University employees. These young men dedicate 40-plus hours a week for much of the school year to the football program and they deserve the right to unionize.
“College football players have brought in billions of dollars for universities across the country, and in many cases their athletic responsibilities limit the classes they can take and their scholarships only extend as long as they are physically able to perform. I am particularly concerned about the health implications of college sports. As the dispute over medical bills resulting from Kain Colter’s ankle injury highlight, athletes are not guaranteed healthcare coverage for injuries sustained due to collegiate athletic competition – including those associated with long-term impacts.
“Northwestern is a model for ensuring that its athletes can succeed both on the field and in the classroom, with a 97 percent graduation rate that ranks the highest in the country among Division I programs. However, as Tim Waters, national political director for the United Steelworkers said yesterday, ‘just because they’re a good employer doesn’t mean they’re not an employer.’
“I’m proud that these young men are standing up and demanding a right to negotiate with the University. I hope that their success can be replicated across the country.”