Northwestern football players cast union vote

Northwestern football players cast their votes on whether to form the nation's first union for college athletes.
April 25, 2014 3:21:42 PM PDT
Northwestern University football players voted Friday on whether to join a labor union.

The National Labor Relations Board is supervising the vote after members of northwestern football team asked to form a union.

While the results of the vote may not be known for months, all eyes across the nation are on Northwestern and what could happen next.

The National Labor Relations Board conducted Friday's election.

The ballot boxes were wheeled out after voting closed at noon, and voting began early Friday morning.

Seventy-six scholarship football players were eligible to vote. What they voted though, may not be known for months.

Michael Odom is an athlete at Northwestern, and while he may not speak for everyone, he understands why some players want to be represented by a union, and be treated like university employees.

"I'm very pro-union," he said. "I think it's a necessary step, even though it probably won't affect me as much as it would affect some of my teammates. It's definitely something that's long overdue."

In order for student athletes to have union support, the majority of the players voting have to vote in favor of the idea.

But, some students say, they are feeling pressure to vote no to a union, by coaches and even from former athletes.

Alum Kevin Brown is a part of a group called the "Game Changers," made up of former Wildcat football stars. He said he's heard from current students voicing their concerns.

"Unfortunately, there've been a lot of other alumni who have maybe interfered in this process and that's just the way it is," he said. "We can't sugar coat that. They called players, they lobbied players."

Northwestern officials want a "no" vote. In fact, they appealed the election process. The national labor relations board granted them a review, which means the election still took place, but the ballots will be impounded until the board issues their final decision.

"We believe our students are students, not employees and we don't believe unionization and collective bargaining are the appropriate methods," said Northwestern University spokesperson Alan Cubbage.

No matter how the vote turns out, experts agree that Northwestern football players made history Friday, just by being part of the vote.


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