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Higher Ed Lobby: Congress Should Address Athlete-Union Issue

Higher Ed Lobby: Congress Should Address Athlete-Union Issue
May 8, 2014

The American Council on Education, the umbrella lobbying organization for colleges and universities, on Wednesday said that allowing college athletes to unionize would produce a litany of bad consequences.

In a letter to Representative John Kline, the Republican who chairs the House education committee, Molly Corbett Broad, the group’s president, took issue with a decision last month by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board to classify Northwestern University football players as employees.

Broad said that such an issue should be addressed by Congress rather than be decided by an administrative agency. Her letter came as Kline, who has been critical of the NLRB decision, is set to hold a hearing today billed as an inquiry into allowing “big labor on college campuses.”

Broad also made the case against allowing athletes to unionize by citing “a range of negative and troubling consequences” that would flow from such a decision. Athletic scholarships would become taxable income under the Internal Revenue Code, and would therefore potentially cost athletes money, she said. In addition, if college athletes were able to collectively bargain with their colleges, such negotiations would “undermine the collegial, academic culture” on campuses. And, if college athletic unions were successful in increasing the compensation of their members, the reallocation of resources “would jeopardize institutions’ ability to offer other sports and the educational opportunities they provide to male and female athletes who may not receive athletic scholarships,” the letter said.

Proponents of letting college athletes unionize have also been taking their case to Capitol Hill in recent months. The College Athletes Players Association, which represents the Northwestern players, has been holding meetings with lawmakers, seeking to garner support and fend off any legislative attempt to stop their organizing efforts.   

 

 

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