Monday, December 18, 2017

College athletes take labor cause to Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON — 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 National College 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 said the athletes are employees and have 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 for today.

"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.

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