CHICAGO -- National Labor Relations Board Region 13 Director Peter Sung Ohr issued a decision yesterday in the case (13-RC-121359) brought by Northwestern University football players seeking to unionize, concluding that all grant-in-aid scholarship players for the football team who have not exhausted their playing eligibility are “employees” under Section 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (Act) and entitled to choose whether or not to be represented for the purposes of collective bargaining. Ohr reasoned that players perform valuable services for the benefit of Northwestern University, for which they receive compensation and are subject to the university’s control in the performance of their duties as football players. Ohr found that the decision in Brown University, 342 NLRB 483 (2004) [lexis.com subscribers can access an enhanced version of this decision], was inapplicable because the players’ football-related duties were unrelated to their academic studies, unlike Brown’s graduate assistants, whose teaching and research duties were inextricably related to their degree requirements. Ohr noted, however, that the outcome would not change even if the Brown factors were applied to the players’ situation. The Northwestern football players could not be deemed temporary employees within the meaning of the Act because their employment was of a finite duration. Ohr concluded that the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) was an appropriate unit as a labor organization under Section 2(5) of the Act, noting that CAPA was established to represent and advocate for certain collegiate athletes, including Northwestern players who receive scholarships; in collective bargaining with respect to health and safety, financial support; and other terms and conditions of employment.
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