For the first time in history, college athletes are petitioning to be represented by labor unions and have taken the first step in the process of being recognized as employees under the National Labor Relations Act.
Former quarterback Kain Colter and members of the Northwestern University football team are leading the fight for recognition. In early February 2014, National College Players Association President Ramogi Huma joined the players and filed a petition on their behalf with the National Labor Relations Board.
The proposed group has been given the name “College Athletes Players Association,” (CAPA) and advances 11 specific goals such as: minimize college athletes’ brain trauma risks, raise the scholarship amounts offered, prevent players from being stuck paying for sports-related medical expenses, increase graduation rates, protect educational opportunities for student-athletes in good standing, and prohibit universities from using a permanent injury suffered during athletics as a reason to reduce/eliminate a scholarship.
Although the idea has received support throughout the country, it has also received its fair share of criticism. The main dispute is not whether the NCAA needs to improve the way it protects players from the concerns CAPA wishes to advance, but rather critics of the proposed group contend there is a lack of foundation and proof that the concerns are so widespread that they warrant the formation of a union.
Whether college athletes could be considered employees is the primary question. Courts have held teaching assistants and residential assistants as non-employees, due to their jobs being a part of the “education experience,” and many foresee a similar outcome for these athletes. However, it is unclear if student athletes are a part of the educational program in the same way, if at all. Regardless of the outcome, this news story shines a light on the vital aspect that everyone should stay informed regarding their rights as employees. If you or a loved one believe you have been a victim of injustice in your role as employee, contact an experienced employment attorney.