What's Buzzing:

College athletes take labor cause to Capitol Hill

The Associated Press
College athletes take labor cause to Capitol Hill
.

View gallery

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Northwestern University athletes pressed their case for collective bargaining rights during meetings Wednesday with lawmakers, as a vote was scheduled for them to decide whether to authorize a union.

The vote will be held April 25, according to Ramogi Huma, president of the College Athletes Players Association.

During meetings on Capitol Hill, Huma and former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter tried to drum up support just a week after a ruling that the athletes were employees and had the same rights to bargain collectively as other workers.

''Health and safety of athletes is the concern, especially to reduce the risk of brain trauma,'' Huma said.

Added Colter, co-founder of the association: ''We're up here raising awareness.''

Even though the issue is not directly before lawmakers, ''Congress is an important part of the chess board,'' he said after meeting with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Brown said in a statement that ''the right to fair treatment is why all workers, no matter the job or venue, should have the opportunity to unionize.''

''College athletes dedicate the same hours to their support as full-time employees and deserve the same protections as any other worker,'' he said.

Colter and Huma were accompanied by Tim Waters, national policy director of the United Steelworkers union, which is underwriting and financing the effort.

More meetings were scheduled Thursday.

''We're up here to let the leadership know what's going on, basically getting information out,'' Huma said.

The Chicago-region director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled last week that Northwestern's football players on scholarships are employees of the university under the National Labor Relations Act and therefore have the right to vote to unionize.

Northwestern, based in Evanston, Ill., has said it will appeal the ruling. It has until April 9 to do so. The full NLRB has yet to weigh in on the finding.

Stacey Osburn, director of public and media relations for the NCAA, said in a statement that Huma's concern was ''unwarranted.'' A Northwestern official has said that the students were not employees and that unionization and collective bargaining were not the appropriate methods to address their concerns.

''The law is fairly clear and consistent with Northwestern's position, so the NCAA has made no contacts with anyone in Congress attempting to ban the unionization of student-athletes,'' Osburn said.

Colter, however, called the decision a ''strong ruling'' and predicted it ''will be hard to overturn.''

The NLRB does not have jurisdiction over public universities, so the push to unionize athletes has been primarily targeted toward private schools such as Northwestern.

Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said after a meeting with the Northwestern group that ''what they've drawn up here is a list of concerns that they have as athletes in Division I schools where there is clearly an imbalance in the relationship. And they're seeking the right to form a union for the purposes of putting some balance back in that relationship.''

---

Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

---

Follow Kimberly Hefling on Twitter: https://twitter.com/khefling and Tom Raum at https://twitter.com/tomraum

View Comments (12)
  • David Wright is not alone in naming his child after Shea Stadium

    David Wright is not alone in naming his child after Shea Stadium

    New York Mets third baseman David Wright and his wife, Molly, welcomed a daughter into the world over the weekend and named her Olivia Shea Wright, leading to mass speculation in the media in New York that the Wrights gave their daughter a middle … More »

    Big League Stew - 4 minutes 54 seconds ago
  • Contreras takes Amis Gizmo to commanding win in Prince of Wales Stakes

    Contreras takes Amis Gizmo to commanding win in Prince of Wales Stakes

    Amis Gizmo eased jockey Luis Contreras' pain Tuesday night. The Queen's Plate runner-up took a huge lead at the top of the stretch, then cruised to a convincing victory in the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Racetrack. Contreras … More »

    The Canadian Press - 10 minutes ago
  • New dawn for Olympic boxing tournament, same old controversy

    New dawn for Olympic boxing tournament, same old controversy

    By Alan Baldwin LONDON (Reuters) - Professional boxers will join amateurs in the ring for the first time in Olympic history in Rio but anyone hoping for box-office big-hitters can think again, even with Muhammad Ali in the draw. Three times world … More »

    Reuters - 19 minutes ago
  • Penn St. AD: Programs lying to recruits

    Penn St. AD: Programs lying to recruits

    Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said opposing programs are lying to recruits by telling them the Nittany Lions could be put on probation by the NCAA in the wake of recent allegations in the Jerry Sandusky scandal. ''It's not factual,'' … More »

    AP - Sports - 19 minutes ago
  • Bouchard beats Safarova to advance at Rogers Cup

    Bouchard beats Safarova to advance at Rogers Cup

    Eugenie Bouchard reconnected with her hometown fans with an impressive first-round victory at the women's Rogers Cup on Tuesday. A large crowd at Uniprix Stadium was solidly behind the Westmount, Quebec, native throughout her 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (3) win … More »

    AP - Sports - 24 minutes ago