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Education & Labor Committee Republicans

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Committee Continues Oversight of Effort to Unionize Student Athletes
Requests information from NCAA and files legal brief with NLRB

House Education and the Workforce Committee leaders today joined a bicameral amicus brief to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as it considers whether to treat scholarship student athletes as “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act. The legal brief argues that college athletes are not employees under the law and treating student athletes as employees is unworkable:

As a matter of both national labor and educational policy, the Congressional Committee Members urge the Board to find that grant-in-aid scholarship football players are not employees… The profound and inherent differences between the student-university and employee-employer relationship makes employee status unworkable both as a matter of law and in practice. 

The amicus was signed by the following House and Senate leaders:

  • House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN);
  • Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC);
  • Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN); 
  • Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN);
  • Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee Ranking Member Johnny Isakson (R-GA); and 
  • Primary Health and Aging Subcommittee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC).

The amicus brief follows a letter Chairman Kline sent to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) President Mark Emmert requesting information on the organization’s effort to address various challenges affecting student athletes. As Chairman Kline noted:

[At a recent committee hearing] a university president, athletic director, and former scholarship football student athlete made clear that unionization would hurt rather than help student athletes. However, witnesses raised a number of legitimate concerns surrounding college athletics that merit careful consideration…

The committee understands the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is taking steps to address these and other issues to improve college athletes’ education and experience. To further inform the committee, please identify all steps taken by the NCAA to address these issues and improve the collegiate experience of student athletes.

Background: On March 26, a NLRB regional director issued an unprecedented decision that scholarship football players at Northwestern University are “employees” under federal labor law. On April 25, Northwestern University football players voted on whether to unionize and the ballots from the election are impounded pending review by the full board. The committee held a hearing on May 8 to examine the impact of the NLRB’s decision on student athletes and their pursuit of higher education. Members discussed the challenges facing student athletes and the troubling consequences of treating these students as “employees” under federal labor law.

To read the amicus, click here.

To read Chairman Kline’s letter to the NCAA, click here.

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