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College football players want to unionize

This is amazing.

Why shouldn't college athletes get paid, own their image rights, and be able to organize?

Northwestern University Football Players To File Petition To Unionize | ThinkProgress

The NCAA has spent years embroiled in fights over the rights of its athletes, the biggest of which is the lawsuit from current and former players (led by former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon) that argues players should have control over the use of their names, images, and likenesses and share in the revenues they help create. That poses a major threat to the NCAA, because a loss would mean a rejiggering of its financial model to give players a cut of revenues.

A union drive, however, would take a massive step forward: it would, for the first time, require classifying athletes as employees who had the right to organize, bargain, and earn compensation for their labor (for now, ESPN reports, only men’s basketball and football players would be eligible to join, as they are in the best position to argue for employment rights).

That may sound radical, but it isn’t necessarily. Labor lawyers, advocates for paying players, and some college professors have argued before that athletes should be considered employees. Jeffrey Kessler, a labor attorney who has worked for all four major American professional players associations, told me in 2012 that “there are good (legal) arguments that Division I football is basically a business, and that students are exploited as workers. And therefore schools should be free to compensate athletes in any manner that they want to, without NCAA restrictions,” though he acknowledged that as currently recognized, those athletes have no rights under federal labor law.

As Bylaw Blog’s John Infante notes, the Northwestern case will go before an NLRB with unsettled law on this issue. Unlike public schools, which are covered by state law, Northwestern and other private universities are covered by the National Labor Relations Act, and the NLRB hasn’t clearly determined how to approach these issues legally. New York University graduate students won the right to organize from NLRB, then lost that right when the board revisited the decision later.