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Some Ohio lawmakers don’t want college athletes unionized

Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter is leading an effort to unionize the football team. A union would put the athletes in a position to bargain and demand things college athletes have never had before.

Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter is leading an effort to unionize the football team. A union would put the athletes in a position to bargain and demand things college athletes have never had before.

(CNN) — As the right of college athletes to form unions is debated across the country, at least one state is moving to head off that idea at the pass.

An Ohio House committee added an amendment to a state budget bill Monday that says students attending state universities in Ohio “are not public employees based upon participating in athletics for the state university.”

It’s the latest reaction to the ruling last month by the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago that football players at Illinois’ Northwestern University are considered employees of their school and can vote to form a union.

Because Northwestern is a private school, the NLRB governs whether athletes there can vote to form a union. At public schools, that decision is governed by state law.

That prompted movement from lawmakers in two states Monday. In Connecticut, legislators said they were considering drafting legislation that would allow it. The amendment added to the budget bill in Ohio would ban it.

The players at Northwestern still have to vote to actually form their union. That vote takes place April 25 and some of the leaders on the team have said they plan to vote “no.” Head coach Pat Fitzgerald told his team he doesn’t think a union is in their best interest.

Reaction from current and former athletes has been mixed.

Other private schools, like Duke and Stanford, have had meetings on the issue, according to remarks by Northwestern’s president emeritus Henry Bienen at the Knight Commission on intercollegiate athletics last month.

State lawmakers in Connecticut have expressed support, praising University of Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier — named the most valuable player in the team’s win Monday over the University of Kentucky for the NCAA basketball championship — for talking out about NCAA reform.

The Ohio measure will probably go to a vote in the state House on Wednesday, a staffer said. If it passes there, it still must be approved by the state Senate.

Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association and a driving force behind the union idea, has said that the NLRB ruling would have a domino effect, but he wouldn’t comment on whether athletes at other schools are considering a hard push to form a union.

Northwestern is appealing the NLRB’s decision, and the appeals process could take years, making its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

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