Northwestern University and the union seeking to represent its football players are set on Thursday to file additional documents backing their positions -- one against, one in favor -- of a ruling that expanded the definition of "employees" to the players, allowing them to unionize.
Northwestern is appealing the March ruling of the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board to the full labor board in Washington.
A month after the ruling, the players voted on whether they want to be represented by the College Athletes Players Association. Their votes are being kept secret until the labor board makes a final decision. The timing of that ruling is uncertain.
Both sides have until midnight Thursday to file the documents. They will then have until July 31 to file responses to each others' arguments.
The labor board also invited interested parties to file documents on the issue.
So far, an anonymous parent of student-athletes and a professor have filed briefs.
The parent criticized the NCAA, coaches who force students to play summers, even when they know the teens have no means of supporting themselves, and stressed that many students are forced to settle for degrees beneath their intellect for lack of time.
A union, the parent said, would allow players to bargain over better working and living conditions.
The professor asks the board to overturn a previous ruling denying graduate students at Brown University the status of "employees."
Others, including the AFL-CIO, the Association for the Protection of Collegiate Athletes, a group that provides services and information to student-athletes, and the American Council on Education, have indicated they will weigh in on the issue.
Northwestern has said its student-athletes are first and foremost students and its primarily commitment is to the education of the players. It’s also argued that collective bargaining is not the appropriate method to address the concerns raised by the football players.
Unionization, it has said, would create chaos because its student-athletes would be able to negotiate over economic and non-economic conditions and even strike, while others competing in the sport would not be able to do so. Furthermore, it said, scholarships, benefits and other items the union seeks to bargain over are strictly regulated by the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference and thus outside of its control.
Northwestern's football players are the first in college sports to seek union representation. Behind the effort is CAPA, a union funded by Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker who has become an advocate for players' rights.
CAPA said it seeks to negotiate over health and safety issues and does not intend to push for "pay-for-play" wages, which are not allowed by the NCAA.