Congress sets date for hearing on NCAA union issue

KainColterCAPA040214

It was only a matter of time before Congress got involved.

The House Education and Workforce Committee (funny how they are put together, isn’t it?) has scheduled a hearing for Thursday, May 8 at 10 a.m. to examine the NLRB’s decision to declare Northwestern football players employees rather than students.

“The NLRB’s decision represents a radical departure from longstanding federal labor policies,” said committee Chairman John Kline (Rep.-Minn.). “Classifying student athletes as employees threatens to fundamentally alter college sports, as well as reduce education access and opportunity. The committee has a responsibility to thoroughly examine how the NLRB’s decision will affect students and their ability to receive a quality education.”

Congress, of course, routinely has hearings on any and everything they might be interested in. This could be for show like some of the steroid hearings were, or it could be the predecessor to proposing some form of legislation or amendment to the National Labor Relations Act specifically to settle this matter one way or the other.

It is not certain who the committee will invite to testify on this matter. I assume Ramogi Huma and Kain Colter will be invited and Huma will certainly attend. It would not surprise me if Mark Emmert receives an invite and that some representative from the NCAA attends. I highly doubt Pat Fitzgerald will don a suit and provide his testimony to the committee, but I am sure he will get the invite too.

It is really uncertain what will come out of this hearing. It is likely an information-gathering exercise as Congress will pull its weight on this debate. There is certainly a concern in regards to following Title IX interpretations and ensuring there are equal opportunities for all when it comes to college athletics and spending on college athletics. There is also a paternal concern for the well-being of 18-21 year olds and ensuring they get the educational opportunities their scholarship promises them.

Like I have said throughout this process, we and no one really knows what the future holds for the NCAA’s amateur athlete model after the NLRB decision. The decision is still under review from the Big Board and all the parties await that decision before proceeding any further.

Congress will ask its questions and try to shed more light on what the repercussions might be as they mull some action.

Stay tuned.

  • Mark Wheaton

    Just great. Once Congress gets involved all bets are off. Aren’t there more important issues facing this great country than whether college athletes are employees?????

    • David

      Look at it this way….every hour they spend on this issue…is one less hour that they have to raise our taxes.

      • Mark Wheaton

        Excellent point.

      • Bob Parkman

        Or add regulations or figure out new ways to spend our money.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      Actually, this is a pretty important issue. There is federal money going to these universities and there is Title IX implications, etc. The committee holding this hearing is charged with at least hearing these kinds of matters. Who knows if legislation or anything can come out of it. They have to at least ask some questions here.

    • cece

      the NLRB could be making a decision that will have wide ranging impact on college athletics, and perhaps even the status of other people who engage in activities in a college setting. and PRR is spot on, Title IX implications are massive. I’d rather have Congress looking at this matter than another look at Obamacare or Benghazi, both of which have been discussed endlessly.

      • Law Cat

        I think PRR and cece’s point is well taken – this issue before the NLRB has issues way beyond the NLRA, including Title IX, the Tax Code, the FLSA, OSHA, potentially even Title VII. A Congressional inquiry seems the appropriate “umbrella” to study all of the ramifications of defining the players as employees and, perhaps, educate the NLRB as to the implications of its decision.

      • Pikepole

        You’ve obviously never served in the Military. Benghazi is real. Football is not. Would you and the “What difference does it make” crowd feel that way if one of your relatives was beheaded or disembowled by the mob? Just asking.

        • cece

          of course the incidents in Benghazi were horrible and government officials—including the one you allude to— have taken responsibility for matters that affected the outcome when terrorists attacked. and there have been a number of studies and hearings on the matter. a great number. independent studies too. wouldn’t you rather that some who use such incidents as a political tool fund the care of veterans properly rather than give lip service?

    • http://www.bearsdraftontap.com Johnathan Wood

      Congress listens to anybody with money who is willing to pay them to be interested in a subject.

      Enter the NCAA.

  • plaza guy 1962

    Democrats control the NLRB and Republicans control the House—–Democracy.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      Checks and balances

    • Pikepole

      Exactly.For better or worse.

  • PBRCat

    A little bit of take away from fans that I have spoken to:
    “How well did Kain Colter play last season? Was his union organizing activism a distraction?”
    Some of us questioned Colter’s lack of gratitude to Northwestern. After he was injured, Stanford dropped him. Northwestern took him in, patched him up and gave an opportunity to play.
    Many people think that there are abuses in college football, but that Northwestern was not the program in need of a union to spur reforms — there are dozens of state universities more deserving of the full treatment. Choosing Northwestern was a purely political decision.
    Given the reports of the actual hearing, many people were dumbfounded by the initial NLRB decision that is being appealed.

    • Chasmo

      The fans you have spoken to don’t seem to understand how the system works. It’s rather sad considering how much the media and posters on this board have explained over and over why Colter had to do what he did in light of the labor laws in this this country. It’s rather amazing that people with Northwestern degrees can be this willfully ignorant of labor law considering how often it’s been explained pertaining to this case.
      Complaining about Colter’s so-called “lack of gratitude” is a ridiculous statement. Colter wasn’t going to go to work at McDonald’s when Stanford dumped him due to his injury. NU was lucky to get him on the rebound and he led NU to only its second bowl victory in history. Colter gave up his redshirt year in the midst of the second to last regular season game when he could have refused to do so. Where is NU’s gratitude to him for doing that? One of the reasons Pat Fitzgerald is making $2.2 million a year is because of players like Kain Colter. Where is Pat Fitzgerald’s gratitude to Kain Colter?

      • Law Cat

        However valid your points may be, you lose a lot of credibility when you start by insulting people who disagree with your point of view by saying that they don’t understand. I am hardly “willfully ignorant.” In fact, I don’t think I am ignorant at all – considering my Northwester degree plus my legal education and ongoing learning as a practicing labor lawyer. I understand that I may have a different point of view than some of the media and some of the posters – some don’t care what the law is and just like to spout off, others think they understand the law and it’s implications but don’t, and some have a good grasp of the law but don’t necessarily interpret it the same way that I do. I am not a Kane hater, like some who post. I think that he contributed a lot to the team. I don’t pretend to know what his options were when he graduated high school and what promises he and Fitz exchanged/ whether either was disappointed or let down, who owed whom a debt of gratitude. I do know that Kain let it get personal and, to my knowledge, Fitz has addressed the issues rather than the individuals, at least in a public forum. That is what I would expect, given the relative maturity of the two individuals involved. I strongly disagree that Kain had to do what he did from a purely legal standpoint. The options have been written about extensively, if you chose to educate yourself. I have no problem with your expressing your point of view – you’re entitled to your opinion. But I do object to being called “ignorant” because I don’t agree with you. One thing I learned at Northwestern is that you learn from discourse with others, but a free exchange of ideas is stifled when insults fly.

        • Chasmo

          Lawcat, do you not understand that if Colter believed that forming a players union was the best way to force the NCAA to treat players better — and recent developments show he was right as the NCAA is changing its rules on meals and offering other concessions — that Colter couldn’t “pick another school” to try to unionize? You do realize that labor law required Colter to try to unionize at his workplace and not Alabama’s?
          Many NU fans do not seem to grasp this basic point of law and therefore they are angry at Colter for “picking on NU” and “being ungrateful.” Those opinions are based on what is now a willful ignorance of this case.
          Lawcat, do you believe Colter, in his quest to reform the NCAA — which everyone agrees needs to be reformed — should have tried to form a union at Notre Dame?

          • David

            Chasmo…I think most of us will take LawCats analysis over yours. Posters have not stated that Colter should have tried to unionize another school. Posters have stated that CAPA should have tried to unionize another school. Certainly Kain could have recruited a player from a different program to crap on their school. Kain could have even attended the meeting with the steel workers and pressured that teams players in to signing those cards.

          • Law Cat

            Thank you David. I appreciate the vote of confidence

          • Chasmo

            CAPA was willing to accept any player at any private school who was willing to try to get his teammates to sign union cards. Kain Colter stepped forward because he believe that unionization was the best method to get the NCAA to change (and recent development have proven him correct). So that’s why NU was the school that was chosen to make CAPA’s case.
            You may say that Kain Colter should not have done this. OK. But if Colter believed that unionization was the best path to challenging the NCAA, he did what he believed was right and that is something to be admired.
            You are free to take LawCat’s analysis over mine but LawCat doesn’t understand the basics of the NLRB and therefore is profoundly uniformed about this case despite his law degree.

          • Law Cat

            No, I do not realize that “labor law required Colter to unionize at his workplace.” Perhaps I slept through that class in Labor Law 301. As far as I know, there is no legal reason whatsoever that Kain Colter, CAPA, and the USW could not have conducted a union campaign at Notre Dame, Alabama, or any other school with scholarship football players. Would it have been harder? Sure. Because Bama is a public school in a red state, the NLRB would not have played a role and there probably is not a public employee counterpart. (I don’t know because I do not practice in the south.) “Outside agitators” often start unions, much to the dismay of employers who are targeted. As practical matter, it certainly made more sense to target NU, but Colter was not legally barred from doing exactly the same thing elsewhere. I could respond to some of your other points, but I think this is enough for now.

          • Chasmo

            Wow. You really are uninformed.
            First of all, CAPA could not attempt to unionize at any public university because the NLRB board only oversees private employers. You are a lawyer and you don’t know that? OK. You not only slept through you labor law class, you haven’t bothered to read any newspaper articles about the issue. Have you even read the NLRB ruling?
            Second, if one is attempting to unionize, the NLRB will only recognize the efforts of employees trying to unionize their own workplace. Yes, outside groups can advise and organize those workers. But do you really think Kain Colter should have gone to USC or Notre Dame who don’t know who is he and have them sign cards in order to have the NLRB recognize his efforts? He had no choice but to do it at NU if he wanted to succeed.
            You may be a lawyer, LawCat, but your knowledge of labor law and your knowledge of this case leave much to be desired.

          • Law Cat

            Chasmo, let’s take this one step at the time. First you say: “CAPA could not attempt to unionize at any public university because the NLRB board only oversees private employers.” This is factually incorrect. Many employees of private universities are unionized. For exampie, the AAUP just won an election to represent professors at UIC. The fact that employers are not under the jurisdiction of the NLRB does not mean that their employees cannot unionize. All it means is that they unionized employees are not covered by the NLRA and cannot resort to the NLRB for protection. Of course the USW and CAPA would prefer to organize a private school for that reason, but it is incorrect to say that they could not attempt to organize a public university.

          • Pikepole

            Labor law required him at his workplace? He was no longer a member of the team in January 2014.Duh!!

      • David

        This coming from the guy who said “Kain Colter is being Swift Boated by anti-union zealots”…and suggested that NU fans who oppose the union would trade the death of all the players by the age of 50 in exchange for 2 national titles…..carries no weight at all.

        Second, you detested Colter in 2012 when he was helping us win games. You can not tolerate joyful fans posting on this board about NUFB. Now the he has crapped on NU…he is your hero. You belong together.

        Finally, not only have the posters rejected your distorted impression of NU…seemingly the Football team has as well. We all think NU is a special place. Your negativity carries no weight in this community.

        • Chasmo

          You always know you have lost an argument when you have to misrepresent what someone has said in order to attack their character because you can’t counter their argument.
          I have said that most college football fans care little about the players who play the game. Most college sports fans root for a shirt, not the human being inside.
          I said that if college football fans were guaranteed several national titles in exchange for every player on those teams dying before the age of 50, many fans would have some serious thinking to do. I stand by that statement.

          • David

            Chasmo…you can spin all you want. You said two national titles. Your negativity and foolish comments make you irrelevant.

          • David

            Also, if you stand by your statement…you confirm your lack of credibility. You are truly a blight on the landscape of Wildcat “fans”. Fans is ” ” because a fan is typically happy when good things happen to their team.

          • Chasmo

            Unionization would be a good thing for NU football players; therefore I am a great fan by your own definition because I want good things to happen for the players on NU’s team. You, meanwhile, root for a shirt.

      • Pikepole

        I may not know how the system works,according to you. i do know that “Cain” didn’t show much class in setting up his school and coach the way he did. I also know that no matter how logical or strong NU’s case is at the NLRB,we lose.Any guesses as to why?

        • Law Cat

          As far as the strength of NU’s case, this is hardly a slam dunk. You seem to think that NU’s case is both logical and strong, but I think if you stand back and try to view this objectively there are logical arguments on both sides, which is something that has been more or less ignored in the heat of passion about the topic (and the key CAPA witness) both here and in the media, which tends to be reporting based on a perspective of which side they support, with a few notable exceptions. Personally, I think the regional decision was incorrect, but I do not believe that it was unprincipled. Although I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that NU will lose at the next level, it is far more difficult to prevail at the NLRB when you have lost at the regional level because the standard for review is very narrow. In other words, it is much harder to get a decision reversed than affirmed. You do not go in with a 50/50 chance. Although this is because of the standard of review, not because the NLRB is biased against NU, given the tenor of comments on LTP I expect that is the conclusion many will draw if NU loses its appeal.

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