Service Employees Local Starts Recruiting N.C. College Athletes

RALEIGH, N.C. –Move over, Northwestern: A statewide Service Employees local in North Carolina is recruiting college athletes there to be union members, too.
But there are a few key differences between the now-well-known case involving Northwestern’s football players petitioning the National Labor Relations Board for an union representation election and SEIU Local 2008’s efforts in the Tar Heel State:
  • The NLRB is involved in the Northwestern battle, and the courts may well be, too, afterwards.  The board has already decided to review the ruling of its Chicago regional director saying that athletes at private universities are employees and have the right to organize.
But the North Carolina athletes whom Local  2008, the State Employees Association, is pursuing play for public colleges, such as North Carolina and North Carolina State.  The NLRB isn’t involved with such public workers.  State public employee regulators and agencies are.
  • If the Northwestern athletes, whose incipient union, the College Athletes Players Association, is backed by the Steel Workers, win, they would be able to organize and bargain collectively.  They say they would do so on such issues as continuing medical care for injured players and funds to let them finish their education after their scholarships expire, not wages.
North Carolina law bans collective bargaining by public workers, and the SEIU local says it would instead work for the athletes the way it works for its other 55,000 members statewide: Lobbying in the state capital of Raleigh for better working conditions.
  • Finally, the Northwestern effort has been underway for months, in Illinois, a state that is used to unions and that is one of the most densely unionized in the U.S.  North Carolina’s government now is run by Radical Right Republicans and the right-to-work state is dead last in union density, partially because of that state ban on public worker bargaining.
SEIU Local 2008 is charging ahead, with its board vote on May 23 to launch the drive.
“All this vote was was simply a vote to allow the association to accept student athletes into the membership,” Toni Davis, Local 2008’s communications and public relations director for the State Employees Association, told local media. “Right now, everything else is in the planning and development stages.”
But the Northwestern ruling prompted the effort, she added.  So were the concerns, such as player safety, that moved the Northwestern players to seek union representation.
“If this was the direction that college athletes would be moving in, SEANC wanted to be at the forefront to be able to accept these athletes into our membership,” Davis said. “This vote was simply a vote to amend our own rules so that we could accept student athletes into the membership.”

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