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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.

Join the discussion

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WILLIAM April 05 2014 at 2:38 PM

Ok, players you want to unionize like the real worker bee's than this is partly what needs to be done.
1. Have a Union Hall (referral).
2. Have a Business Agent, one who runs the hall.
3. When a college of university puts in call for help on their football team let the player who is at the top of the list of out of work employee's go to that institution(regardless of skill level).
4. Consider the first 4 years of the employee as a apprentice which has different pay scales. the longer that one progresses the more money per hour they receive.
5. After the 4 year apprenticeship they will be classified as journeyman football players who will now be in a pool of other journeyman players.
6. When the contractor (NFL team) decides to put them to work the pay scale will not be a contract but an hourly scale wage. Where all employee's make the same hourly rate as the other journeymen.
7. All Quarter backs will be considered as Foremans and will receive a wage at 10% higher than the journeymen's wage.
8. All healthcare and benefits will be included in the hourly wage package negotiated by the negotiation (bargaining) committee who where put there by the votes of the members. (apprentices and journeyman football players)
9. The retirement age at which the members can retire at will be strictly up to the players motives and the pension which was negotiated by the bargaining committee will set the amount of pension one receives for years of service. If an employee decides to retire early then the bargained years a certain percentage will be deducted for each year under the bargained term of the pension years.
10. If any employee is not up to the standards of the General Foreman (Head Coach) the player shall be terminated and can go back to the Hall to be reassigned if the Contractor needs their services.
On and on it goes fans. Get ready because college football as we know it will be a whole new ball game.

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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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sherylll April 05 2014 at 3:19 PM

You are so rignt. College athletes get their scholarships so that they can attend college-get a free college education. Those private schools charge a tution over $40,000 a year, some much more. Right there students by practicing football are making over $40,000 and most of those students are under 21, pretty good salary without being unionized. MOst states that have unions are having severe money problems. Unions drive the cost of living up. That's why so many companies have left those states with strong unions like the Northeast and states like Illinois. and gone to place like Texas that are right-to-work states. Unfortunately, college students are at an impressionable age and the unions have come in and promised them things and the students don't think it through. Some changes need to be made, but unions are not the answer.

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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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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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ejstanek April 05 2014 at 3:38 PM

Physics and chemistry students unite. And Engineers and biologists and geneticists and computer scientists. These students do research in return for their scholarships. They are the backbone of the work done for the universities to get grants and patents for which the schools get huge royalties at the students' expense. If athletes can unionize, why shouldn't the scientists and engineers do it - after all they make the difference between our quality of life and defense capabilities - as opposed to players in games that have no real impact on the future of democracy or the betterment of the human race. Inventing a new football play has little significance when compared to inventing a new drug, a new material, a new rocket or satellie component, a new vaccine, or medical breakthrough. Either give scientists and engineers without which our country could not function the same consideration as athletes, or stop all scholarship programs for athletes and let the NFL pay for new farm teams - and their own stadiums instead of ******* investment off the taxpayers to make jocks and team owners multi-millionairs. If college athletics is now a business - there should be no college athletics. Colleges should be for educating.

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ltpar April 05 2014 at 3:39 PM

College is for education and not the minor leagues of professional sports groups. Perhaps we need more controls on the Colleges, how they administer scholarships and how much they are allowed to spend per year. College sports needs to stay at the non-profesional levels.

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markvacc1 April 05 2014 at 3:44 PM

No problem. Shut down any sports program that voted union and let them go somewhere else.

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crazy ray April 05 2014 at 3:44 PM

Guess what? Supooting professional sports is NOT a job for colleges and Universities. Maybe, if they stopped spending their energy on sports, they'd have time and the concentration to teach students and get us back in brain game. Universities should NOT be the farm teams for the NFL and NBA.

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1 reply
Paul crazy ray April 05 2014 at 4:29 PM

I second the motion

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floatgod April 05 2014 at 3:52 PM

Then put out a call to all students who want to turn out for basketball, football, baseball, or whatever. No scholarships, no employee status.

Who would this hurt?
Young person of color who lack the money or the grades to get into school.

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1 reply
Paul floatgod April 05 2014 at 4:28 PM

If they lack the education to be in a higher education institution they they don't belong there. Race has nothing to do with it. If any would be student lack the money he/she can take a loan. If it is the education than he/she shouldn't be there and could learn a marketable skill

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1 reply
floatgod Paul April 05 2014 at 4:43 PM

Did you hear about Dexter Manley? ex Redskin who testified in front of Congress that after four years at Oklahoma State U. he was functionally illiterate?

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carbemiller April 05 2014 at 3:53 PM

This is how you go about not getting a scholarship.

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