Bailey Dick, Bailey@jwj.org
Washington, D.C. – Today, the NLRB unanimously declined jurisdiction over Northwestern University’s scholarship football players. The NLRB ruled that asserting jurisdiction would not promote stability in labor relations, one of the primary policies of the National Labor Relations Act, the law that enforced by the NLRB. In doing so, the NLRB did not address the question of scholarship college football players being employees under federal labor law.
“The Board’s decision today brings a mix of emotions, in that players won some key rights through pursuing this case, but we also know that the lengths to which Northwestern University went to prevent these players from having a voice. The Labor Board may have punted, but the Northwestern football players flexed their muscle throughout this case. By standing up together as a team to have a say over the terms of their work, the NCAA and its member schools could not ignore their demands, and made a host of reforms to address the grievances of these players. College athletes across the country saw real change because Northwestern players organized and spoke up in one clear voice for better conditions,” said Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta.
“Today’s ruling leaves the door open for other scholarship athletes to use their collective voice and form a union. However, this decision does not vindicate Northwestern University’s administration or coaches, as the Board did not decide the question of the players’ status as employees. What we do know is that brave Northwestern football players stood up and demanded a voice. In doing so, they were met with a textbook unionbusting campaign carried out by Northwestern’s coaches and administration to pressure the college athletes against forming a union. And, yet, in large part because of their courageous actions, the NCAA has already begun to institute reforms that will benefit all college scholarship athletes,” said Michael Wasser, Senior Policy Analyst at Jobs With Justice.