Labor Board Decision Prompts Call For Legislation
At least one lawmaker said he plans to raise legislation next year that would allow student-athletes to form a union.
The announcement comes that same day that the National Labor Relations Board declined to answer the question about whether student-athletes on scholarship are employees. In a unanimous decision, the NRLB said having union and non-union teams could lead to different standards at different schools and create competitive differences within an athletic conference.
It “would not promote stability in labor relations,” the five-member board concluded.
The ruling comes after a regional director in Chicago found that scholarship football players at Northwestern University are employees and are entitled to organize. Monday’s ruling puts that move to unionize on hold.
“The NLRB’s decision punts the question of allowing athletes to form unions to the states,” Rep. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, said. “This year, I introduced legislation in Connecticut to allow some college athletes to form unions and I plan on reintroducing that bill next year.”
He said the decision only increases the pressure on states to act and decide “whether or not we value athletes’ rights.”
He added: “I can guarantee that this issue isn’t going away.”
Similar legislation Lesser introduced this year didn’t even get a public hearing. However, another bill that called for studying the issue did get a public hearing before it died in committee.
Lori Pelletier, executive secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, testified at that February hearing that college athletes should be considered employees of their institutions.
“These students directly or indirectly earn money for their schools. Endorsements from apparel companies, beverage and food companies, and TV rights just to name a few, bring in large amounts of money to the schools,” Pelletier said. “This income is earned by the student athletes for the schools thus making them employees of the school.”
The Connecticut Labor Department was in favor of a study, if there was money in the budget to fund it.
University of Connecticut Athletic Director Warde Manual told the Labor Committee in February that full scholarship athletes will be provided with an additional stipend in the 2015-16 school year to cover the full cost of attendance.
“The purpose of this additional stipend is to compensate for the money that student-athletes are not able to earn through part-time jobs due to their demanding schedule,” Manual said in his written testimony.
It was a decision made after a March 2014 interview with former UConn basketball player Shabazz Napier.
“As student athletes we get utilized for what we do so well,” Napier told reporters. “But that doesn’t cover everything. We do have hungry nights where we don’t have enough food and sometimes money is needed.”
Lesser said he’ll introduce the legislation in February 2016.