Northwestern unionization leaders turn efforts toward DC


Source: Jan Schakowsky on Twitter

College Athletes Players Association leaders Kain Colter, Ramogi Huma and Tim Waters meet with U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. The trio spoke to several legislators about the details of their college athletes’ rights movement.

Alex Putterman, Sports Editor

Leaders from the College Athletes Players Association met with legislators in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to explain the Northwestern football unionization movement they’ve spearheaded.

Former Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter, CAPA president Ramogi Huma and United Steelworkers political director Tim Waters spoke with various congressional leaders — including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston), whose district includes NU — about the details of their cause.

“The meetings went well, and I think people have a lot better idea of what went on (with the unionization movement),” Waters told The Daily. “A lot of it’s common sense. I think people need to hear it and understand the athletes, they’re not asking for million dollar paychecks here.”

Last week, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago ruled that NU football players are University employees, affirming the stance CAPA argued at a hearing in March. The school has announced its intention to appeal the decision to the national NLRB office in Washington.

“I am pleased with the NLRB ruling that correctly recognizes Northwestern football players as University employees,” Schakowsky said in a statement after the decision. “These young men dedicate 40-plus hours a week for much of the school year to the football program and they deserve the right to unionize.”

CAPA’s principal goal is to grant players a voice in discussions of their rights. The union hopes to improve medical coverage and increase graduation rates for college athletes.

Waters said a union vote is scheduled for April 25 but suggested the university could theoretically ask for a postponement. Still, he said, CAPA’s leadership “expects and welcomes” a vote.

On Tuesday night, Huma appeared on “The Colbert Report” to discuss CAPA’s goals. He garnered enthusiastic applause from the studio audience with his retort to Stephen Colbert’s (Communication ’86) assertion that players could simply walk away from football if they feel mistreated.

“There are no employees that are forced to go their jobs — it’s all voluntary,” Huma said. “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a voice in your workplace to make sure you have basic protections.”

After Colbert, in character, said Huma doesn’t understand the term “student-athlete,” Huma responded, “They’re students, they’re athletes and they’re employees.”

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