News Release

Right to Work Foundation Files Brief Opposing NLRB Bid to Impose Compulsory Unionism on College Athletes

Foundation brief argues that student athletes aren’t employees and therefore shouldn’t be subjected to compulsory unionism

Springfield, VA (July 10, 2014) – The National Right to Work Foundation, a charitable organization that provides free legal aid to employees nationwide, has filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) opposing the compulsory unionization of college athletes. The brief was filed in response to a ruling issued earlier this year by an NLRB regional director that found that Northwestern University football players are employees and thus eligible for unionization.

The Foundation’s brief points out that subjecting student athletes to compulsory unionization violates their First Amendment right to freedom of association. Under the NLRB regional director’s ruling, if a majority of student athletes in an NLRB-designated “bargaining unit” vote for unionization, all student athletes in said unit – even those who oppose the union’s presence – must accept the union’s bargaining over their terms of participation in college sports. The students may also be forced to pay union dues as a condition of participating in college athletics.

The Foundation’s brief goes on to argue that the NLRB has no interest in forcing students to accept union “representation” or forcing them to pay union dues because student athletes are not employees.

Unlike employees, student athletes are not compensated for workplace performance. Scholarships are often awarded on the basis of academic merit and other criteria unrelated to athletics, while many students “walk-on” to teams for no compensation whatsoever.

Foundation attorneys note that the NLRB regional director’s labeling of student athletes as employees could also apply to college students who receive scholarships for academics, music, or the arts. This overly-broad definition could leave even more students vulnerable to coercive unionization.

“Students shouldn’t be put in a position where they can be forced to pay union dues and accept union bargaining over their participation in college sports,” said Patrick Semmens, Vice President of the National Right to Work Foundation. “We hope the NLRB will reverse the regional director’s ruling and protect students’ First Amendment rights.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, is assisting thousands of employees in over 200 cases nationwide.

NOTICE TO MICHIGAN EMPLOYEES: EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO WORK

Under your state’s recently-enacted Right to Work laws, no worker can be forced to join or pay dues to a union. However, you must take certain steps to assert these rights if you are currently a dues-paying union member. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a charitable organization that provides free legal assistance to employees across the country. Right to Work staff attorneys can help you resign from a union and stop paying dues, but you must contact us to request free legal assistance. Our toll-free legal aid hotline is 800-336-3600. You can also fill out this form on our website to request free legal assistance.

The National Right to Work Foundation has also compiled legal information for Michigan employees about their workplace rights. Private sector employees can find more detailed information about how to leave a union and stop paying dues here. Public sector employees can find more detailed information here. Although employees can leave a union and stop paying dues without legal assistance, many find it difficult to navigate the resignation process alone. Others face bureaucratic obstructionism from union officials. Again, we encourage any Michigan worker who wishes to leave his or her union to contact the National Right to Work Foundation for help. 

If you are a member of the Michigan Education Association (MEA) union, you are subject to a special union resignation window period that only takes place during the month of August. Click here for more detailed information about your legal rights. Right to Work staff attorneys can also provided free legal assistance to any MEA members who wish to stop paying union dues and leave the union. 

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a charitable organization that strives to provide legal assistance to all employees subjected to compulsory unionism. Foundation staff attorneys currently represent thousands of workers in over two hundred cases nationwide. However, we cannot guarantee that Right to Work attorneys will be able to assist every employee who contacts us. Each request for assistance will be evaluated based on the facts and the characteristics of the specific case, among other things.  


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