Topics: Labor Unions

NLRB to impound Northwestern athletes' votes until union case decided

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Northwestern University student athletes will vote Friday on whether they will have a union but the results may not be known for months. The National Labor Relations Board announced Thursday afternoon that it will impound the votes and hold on to them until it rules on the university's request to stop the whole process.

On March 26, a NLRB regional director ruled that because the university's athletes were supported by the school and subject to rules and requirements not placed on other students, they had a right to unionize. The athletes were subsequently scheduled to vote on April 25 on whether they would engage in collective bargaining.

The unionization effort was lead by Kain Colter, a former Northwestern player and founder of the College Athletes Players Association.

The university appealed the ruling on April 10. On the eve of the election, the NLRB announced it will hear the appeal. The vote will still go forward "but the ballots will be impounded until the Board issues a decision affirming, modifying or reversing the Regional Director's decision," the board announced.

While the March ruling applied only to Northwestern athletes, it has major implications for college athletics generally, being the first time a student athlete group has been granted collective bargaining rights. Other groups could cite it as a precedent should they try to unionize.

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