Did you hear about the football players at Northwestern University who want to form a labor union? Yes, you heard it right. The players say that since they receive scholarships to attend the school, they are in essence “paid employees.” They claim that since they are instructed by the football coaches on when to come to practice and how long to practice, they are being treated the same way employees in a typical company are treated. The football players want to be able to bargain with the university on several issues: “due process” before a coach could strip a player of his scholarship for a rules violation, financial coverage for sports-related injuries after graduation, and having concussion experts on the sidelines during games.
Now get this. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled the football players are in fact “employees” of the university, and they can hold a union election. Northwestern has said they will appeal the ruling. The United Steelworkers union has jumped into the argument, and they are helping with the legal expenses of the football players. But in the meantime, the football players are set to vote on April 25th. If the majority of the 76 players vote to join a union---then they have a union. Wow!
As we have told you many times in the past, the National Labor Relations Board is taking a very aggressive approach in favor of unions. Even though this Northwestern ruling was made by one of the NLRB’s Regional Directors, it is following the lead of the five person Board in Washington that has recently made some “head scratching” decisions that favor labor unions.
But here is something to ponder. The NLRB has ruled the football players are “employees.” Employees in every company receive a W-2 at the end of the year, and employees have to pay taxes on the income they receive. Let’s see---a $30,000 scholarship per year for four years means the “employee” is in the 15% tax bracket. Meaning the football player would have to pony up $18,000 in taxes. If these football players are considered as employees under the NLRB, then why aren’t they considered as employees under the IRS rules?
Think about it.
Kenny L. Colbert, President
Note: The Employers Association is a non-partisan organization. Our purpose is to help employers build better workplaces. Our Message from the President is intended to provoke thought and conversation about issues that impact employers. Have a question or comment? Leave it below!