We're coming up on 11 months since ESPN's Outside the Lines broke the news about former-Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter's petition to unionize Northwestern's football players and the NLRB may be ready to give its historic ruling on college athletics.
Following the decision of regional NLRB chairman Peter Ohr that legally established Northwestern's football players as employees of Northwestern University and thus have the right to unionize, the University, as was expected, appealed the decision to the NLRB's national board. This board, comprised of a presidential-appointed panel of five members who have been approved by the Senate for five-year terms, is expected to issue a ruling on Northwestern's appeal by Dec. 16.
Currently, the board contains three Democrats and two Republicans (usually, the Democrats are more likely to be pro-union and the Republicans are not). But with Democrat Nancy Schiffer scheduled to retire on Dec. 16, the board is expected to issue a rash of decisions before she retires.
You may remember that Northwestern's scholarship football players did vote on whether to be a part of a union or not following the ruling in favor of the College Athletes Players Association. If the players defeat the university in this appeal, the winner of the vote will likely be released, but not the votes of the individuals. The results were compounded due to the pending appeal. From talking to various players, it seems unlikely that the vote passed, but nothing is certain.
We will continue to update the situation as information becomes available.
For further reading on the topic, check out some of the relevant stories about the union:
- Rodger Sherman on how the union case will benefit college football no matter what.
- A really interesting profile on Ramogi Huma, the former UCLA football player leading the charge of a student-athlete union.
- Northwestern had some questionable strategies in trying to "educate" its current players on what a union may do ahead of the vote.
- A reminder of what the union wants to get accomplished.