Northwestern’s football players will vote Friday morning on whether to form a union. Here are some answers to the many questions surrounding the vote.
1.) Why are Northwestern’s football players voting?
Last month, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern’s football players qualify as employees under federal law and therefore can legally unionize. The 76 scholarship players are voting on whether to form a union using a secret ballot. The vote needs a majority to pass. A tie would equal a collective “no” vote.
2.) If they form a union, what would the players want?
The College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), which would take the lead in organizing the players, would ask for guaranteed coverage of sports-related medical expenses for current and former players, better procedures to reduce head injuries and potentially allowing players to pursue commercial sponsorships.
3.) So if Northwestern’s players form a union, all college athletes can form a union, right?
Nope. The NLRB does not have jurisdiction over public universities, so its decision does not apply to them. There are other issues involving some public universities, too. In Virginia, for instance, the state’s public employees do not have collective bargaining rights, according to Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker.
4.) When will we know the results of the vote?
Not today. Maybe not for months. Maybe not for years. Here’s The Post’s Nick Anderson: “The outcome of the secret-ballot vote among Northwestern’s football players will not be known for some time as the board considers a case with broad ramifications not only for intercollegiate athletics but also for how colleges operate.” Here’s the Associated Press: “Northwestern is appealing last month’s ruling that the players have a right to unionize. The NLRB will seal the ballot boxes until after the appeals process runs its course and a time-consuming court fight is a possibility.”
5.) How will the vote go?
It isn’t a slam dunk. Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald has lobbied his players to vote no. “In my heart, I know that the downside of joining a union is much bigger than the upside,” he wrote in the April 14 letter he e-mailed to his team, according to the New York Times. “You have nothing to gain by forming a union.” The Times also reported that some players have publicly said they intend to vote no. “We back Coach Fitz 100 percent wholeheartedly,” wide receiver Kyle Prater said.
MORE FROM THE POST ON THE NORTHWESTERN UNION VOTE
— Mike Wise, however, says it’s a move based on compassion and common sense.
— The Post’s editorial board says the NLRB ruling cuts through the hypocrisy of college sports.