by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef writes for Forbes about the latest developments in efforts to unionize the Northwestern University football team.
Last year there was a burst of excitement in some quarters over the prospect of college football players forming a union. Leftists nearly always think that unions are good because they supposedly promote social justice and when an apparent majority of the players on Northwestern’s team said they wanted to form a union, that gladdened many a collectivist heart.
Then, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago gave the players the green light. Joy!
But on August 17, however, the full National Labor Relations Board unanimously declined jurisdiction, which means that it won’t pursue the case further. Joy was crushed.
The key element in the earlier ruling was that college football players are close enough to the definition of “employee” in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that they were eligible to seek union representation under the law. The full board ducked that exact question, saying that the Northwestern case presented “novel and unique” circumstances. Football players, the board said, “bear little resemblance to graduate student assistants or student janitors and cafeteria workers whose employee status the board has considered in other cases.”
Some people, however, insist that the fight will go on. For example, Eddie Comeaux, professor of education at UC Riverside is quoted in this Diverse Education article as saying, “Given what we’ve seen happen and the traction that we’ve seen, we are unlikely to see the case die here.” Professor Comeaux thinks that the case will “escalate further to a federal court.”
No, that’s not likely. NLRB decisions can be appealed to federal circuit courts, but those courts do not have to take every case that the losing party wants to appeal. And even if a court (the Seventh Circuit in this instance) did accept this case, I think it would be freakish to get a panel (three judges sit on court of appeals panels) where a majority was willing to overrule the NLRB on a decision not to take up a case.