Northwestern players vote on union - Fox 2 News Headlines

Northwestern players vote on union

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - The National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. has granted Northwestern University's request that it review its ruling that football players at the university are essentially employees of the school with full collective bargaining rights.

Northwestern University football players will vote on whether to join a union throughout the day Friday. The first group of voters turned out to McGraw Hall around 6 a.m. Friday morning. Although players will spend Friday voting, the  decision and results will not be known for some time.

That is because the lawyers for Northwestern and the lawyers for the union will file briefs and present their arguments, ESPN legal analyst Lestor Munson told FOX 32's Anita Padilla.

Munson said he expects many of the players will abstain from voting, meaning they want to stay away from the dispute.

"They don't want to take sides, they don't want to divide their team into two segments. They would like this, you could say, to just go away. But it's not going away. This is an unprecedented, historic moment in college sports," Munson said Friday morning.

Munson said the 14-person coaching staff has been aggressively campaigning for votes against the union. Thursday night, former Wildcat football players recognized former Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter for his efforts to spark debate and urge Northwestern to reform.

“The case of Mr. Colter has provided the university and its constituents with a clear path to become the trailblazer for positive and forward thinking policies,” said Kevin Brown, a former Northwestern football player.

“You don't need a union to come up with extended healthcare, being able to graduate any time you want, come back to school when maybe, after surgery,” said Rick Telander, a former Northwestern football player.

The group calls themselves Game Changers. They are not pro or anti-union - they say they just want what's fair.

Thursday afternoon they tweeted, posted and presented a ten point blueprint for consideration by the NCAA and Northwestern University.

Among the requests for college athletes are guaranteeing athletic scholarships beyond four years by providing a free graduate school option, and providing a transportation allowance to and from home during the beginning and end of each academic year, as well as during sanctioned university holidays.

“A union would ask for wages, it would ask for all kinds of things - ours are just common sense ones,” said Telander in an interview with FOX 32’s Tisha Lewis.

"These are clearly important issues not just at Northwestern but nationally. We have had conversations with these groups and we will consider those suggestions thoughtfully as we work with our alumni, student athletes and others going forward," said Alan Cubbage, a university spokesman.

The full five-member federal board is now weighing the appeal request.

Munson said billions of dollars are at stake.

"College sports has become a huge commercial enterprise. College football at Northwestern produces $30 million a year, and this is not a big football program. They make $9 million in profit each year, and that is a small, tiny fraction of what happens in college sports. So, if there are going to be unions of the players, then that would change the basic economic structure of an enormous industry," he said.

Northwestern said they will not make any comments about the vote until 12:15 p.m. Friday.

FOX 32's Anita Padilla contributed to this story

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