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More college teams express interest in unionizing

College Athletes Congress

AP-Players from other universities have expressed interest in forming unions in the wake of the landmark decision last week involving the Northwestern football team, a union organizer said Friday.

Tim Waters of the United Steelworkers would not disclose the players or their schools, saying it was too early to reveal who they are. But he said they reached out following the decision last week by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board declaring Northwestern's football players have the right to form a union.

"We're not giving out who it is or who they are, but the answer is yes," said Waters. "There's a lot of excitement out there. We've been contacted by a number of players."

A member of Wisconsin's Final Four basketball team said he participated in weekly conference calls in recent months with the union and Ramogi Huma, head of the National College Players Association, and other players. The NCPA and the steelworkers are working together on the union push, with the NCAA, Big Ten Conference and Northwestern opposing the move.

"I don't know exactly how many there were. But on average on a weekly call there were probably 10 or 20, at least," said Zach Bohannon, a reserve on the team. "So it was definitely a unique experience just hearing the concerns that players all over the country had, and then just voicing my opinion."

Northwestern players will vote April 25 on whether to become the first college athletes represented by a union. But it could be years, if ever, before college athletes are given a seat at the bargaining table to discuss things like practice hours, medical care and concussions.

Still, Waters said the publicity generated by the ruling that Northwestern football players are employees and can unionize has made more players aware that they, too, could have bargaining rights.

"We've been contacted and are taking every one of them seriously," he said. "It's a process, a long process. But leaders of teams across the country have reached out and said we support it and are interested in looking at this for our team."

Complicating any effort for the steelworkers is that the NLRB ruling only applies to private schools like Northwestern. Public schools are covered by state labor laws, and in some states public employees are not allowed to unionize at all.

Huma and the union have been working since 2000 to try and organize college players. Their goal, they say, is not to get schools to pay players but to give them bargaining rights over issues that affect their lives and could affect their health.

It wasn't, however, until after they had collected union authorization cards from a majority of players on the Northwestern football team in January that organizers announced the effort to unionize the team. Huma said Friday that was part of a strategy not to alert the NCAA or the schools in advance about any union activity.

"They've been very out front all along that they don't want any change like this," said Huma, a former UCLA linebacker.

Bohannon said he learned about the NCPA last summer from a former Wisconsin player, Jared Berggren, who suggested he get on the organization's email list. That led to his participation, beginning in the fall, in a weekly conference call with organizers and players from other schools, he said.

" It was just an hour weekly conference call and we talked about different issues that we found with the NCAA, what we can do going forward as student-athletes to help," Bohannon said.

Bohannon, who is in his final year of eligibility, said he wasn't necessarily advocating for a union but wanted athletes to have more rights.

"Being a Republican, I don't like the whole unionization thing, I don't think that's probably the best option," he said. "But right now it's really, there's not many other options for our student-athletes, so I think it got the necessary publicity that we need, and hopefully the NCAA listens to some of our voices."


AP Sports Writer Genaro C. Armas in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.

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MERLIN April 05 2014 at 8:44 PM

terminate all sports until they get their head out

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D-ROC April 05 2014 at 3:04 PM

Still clueless as to why a college football team needs a union, if you want to play then play and use it to get a grade A education so you can do something real in life without the expense most of the rest of us who attend college have to endure. Football is a game if the college wants to eliminate the program they have the right to do that, it offers no degree but does give the opportunity for a huge financial payout in the future. Enjoy the experience unfortunately in our society the young generation that feels the world owes them a living.
If by chance the football program makes a little money they can use this to offset the cost of all the nonprofitable sports the school sponsors such as every girls sports or the wrestling team or baseball team, are they less of an athlete then the football player. This is a joke a bunch of self aggrandizing kids that are the most important thing in their own world, I hate when these kids just jump out of school and go to the pro's and occupy the bench just because their body says they are a man but their mental and physical skill level is so sub-par that you have to watch their team lose for 6 years into their professional career before they finally start to produce but by then their bodies are all worn out from the heavy professional schedule that their knees and back are bad they are spending all their time on injured reserve getting needless tattoos. If you stay in school and let your body mature on that softer schedule you get injured less in the pro's and the college schedule exposes physical weakness and Portland doesn't have to waste its first round pick on a guy who gets stress fractures walking to class. You would still have your education when its all over and you can go into society with your education to make a difference.

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ddstan1120 April 05 2014 at 3:04 PM

These athletes should be very wary of any union.
Colleges should just stop all the scholorships, and let the people that actually attend college, and especially classes, play the game to the best of their abilities, without pay and special priveleges.
Big bucks rule college sports, where a professor earns $80 thou a year and a football coach makes six million bucks a year. There is something flawed in this reasoning.

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jdo2887250 April 05 2014 at 7:44 PM

It appears that as usual you are pushing a very liberal agenda,Labor Unions.. As an 80 year old
guy who was kucky enough to get a college scholarship and was not a super jock, , but played and graduated from college in the 50'sand thank God for the opportunity to go to college, I just don;t understand these kids today or you.....

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Hi RON April 05 2014 at 7:43 PM

What a stupid idea.... what next ?? Organize high schools?? Kindergartners?????? Wake up folks -- this is simply a progressive, socialistic, liberal DUMB move !!! These college "kids" are suppose be primarily there for an EDUCATION and NOT a sporting event or a union due payment with their tuition!! In addition, unless they are really not smart enough to cut it ----- they should only be there four years!!!

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jdo2887250 April 05 2014 at 7:37 PM

It appears you are true to form, pushing a very liberal agenda......

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joneil6687 April 05 2014 at 3:16 PM

Since the players are employees - will there be taxes (State and Federal) and FICA collected from their "pay" . How will the players in the union keep playing. Doesn't the NCAA have something to say about it.

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fritofred53 April 05 2014 at 3:23 PM

Lets not forget these players that are on a full ride,get their education, books, housing, food,medical paid for. I hear a full ride at Northwestern is an easy 40k a year and if you redshit you've been there 5 years. thats an easy 200k for tuition and books alone. So you gifted athletes when its all said and done you have no debt service on student loan; and you want to unionize! give me a break. You talk about how much money you make for your institution but its never reported how much of an expense each and every athlete cost the athletic departments. If you don't like it give up your scholarship and pay for your own college education. That way you can go into debt with a huge student loan debt that you will be paying for years, unless you take the easy way out and default and let the less gifted taxpayers assume your loan. Count your blessings and get to practice.

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1 reply
fvgreenvalley fritofred53 April 05 2014 at 8:02 PM

Correct. Didn't Kain Colter learn anything at a prestigous university like Northwestern? I know he worked hard in athletics but the university prepared him for his career at the end of his football days with a degree payed only by his sweat and blood and no money to be borrowed to pay for his education. Congrats Kain you have your degree i assume and your debt free from hundreds of thousands $s in student loans. Such gratitude.

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Mr Wonderful April 05 2014 at 7:25 PM

Most athletes in college are not really there to study due to the fact that they are dumber than stumps,just listen to some of the sportscasters who were once athletes. They murder the english language and seem like they've never taken a grammer course. They should pay the schools 15% percent of what they earn in pro sports thruout their careers for the free schooling they recieved in the first place.College is no place for dimwits'

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1 reply
Hi RON Mr Wonderful April 05 2014 at 7:48 PM

Mr. Wonderful ---- You are SPOT ON with your assessment of the situation. I have listened to college players and NFL players being interviewed on TV and Radio ---- and they speak as though they have NEVER taken any educational courses in English or language or social actions!!! It is a shame!!

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you sweet thing April 05 2014 at 3:36 PM

There goes the skyrocketing tuition and people are going to throw their arms up in the air and say "WHY is education so expensive?" Wait til the players get a load of the high union dues and have to pay taxes on the value of their benefits on top of it. LOL, the dumbing down of America continues.

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