Northwestern QB/WR Kain Coulter has teamed with the National College Players Association (an advocacy group founded in 2001 who is backed by the United Steelworkers Union) to file a motion with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize college football players.
The biggest challenge for the players is to prove that they are first employees of the school that produce revenue. But since they are not directly paid a salary and instead compensated with a scholarship, this may be a challenge.
In order for the NLRB to consider the petition to form a union, 30 percent of the “employees” have to sign a card saying they wish to be represented. If you only consider scholarship players, that would mean you need 26 of the 85 to sign a card.
Another challenge to forming a union is that a union needs a constant flow of capital to keep functioning. Since these athletes don’t get paid and 99 percent of them cannot afford to pay dues out of their own pockets it will be a tough task to keep a union afloat unless some big money organization gets behind them, like the NFLPA.
Currently the NFLPA has nothing to gain by backing the college players, so they will likely not enter the fray.
Some of the preliminary “demands”, for lack of a better term are:
- Better medical protection especially related to concussions.
- The creation of multi-year scholarships, instead of the one year renewable system that is currently in place. This is to protect players who are already at the school from losing their scholarship because of a variety of reasons including over-signing and injury.
- Asking for a share of the reported 5.15 billion dollars of revenue brought in by the five power conferences, The Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC, and PAC 12.
- A complete cost of attendance scholarship, which would give a little extra cash for other expenses outside of room and board, meals, books, and tuition that every college student has to pay.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a lengthy court battle at the federal level. This is going to be a long and uphill battle for the players. The other side, the schools and the NCAA have a lot more political and financial power and may just be able to spend the players out of the court room.