Senate bill introduced that could allow student-athletes to unionize


Patrick Murphy | Northern Star

The words ‘Play Like A Huskie” on the front side of Huskie Stadium’s West bleachers Oct. 19, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

By James Krause

DeKALB — A bill introduced in the senate Thursday could open the door for student-athletes on scholarships being declared university employees and allow the formation of student athlete unions.

Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the College Athletes Right to Organize Act Thursday, which would amend the National Labor Relations Act to include college athletes as employees of their school, thus earning the ability to collectively bargain with schools.

The bill also directs the National Labor Relations Board to declare athletic conferences a bargaining unit, allowing student-athletes to help negotiate across programs within their respective conference.

Senator Murphy said the bill will allow student-athletes to take the reins in determining treatment out of the hands of the NCAA, according to a statement released Thursday.

“Through the right to organize and collectively bargain, college athletes will no longer have to wait for the NCAA and its members to treat them fairly,” Murphy said in a Thursday news release. “Rather, the athletes can finally have their voices and interests heard across the myriad of issues that affect their lives.”

Attempts have been made in the past to form unions within college sports, most recently and notably being at Northwestern University in 2014. Murphy said in his statement that the bill will address the roadblocks others have faced in forming unions. 

“By clarifying their employment status, regardless of whether they’re employed by public or private institutions, and asserting the NLRB’s ability to establish a bargaining unit across programs within an athletic conference, college athletes would have much-needed certainty in their rights and ability to collectively bargain,” Murphy said.

The NIU Athletic Department declined to comment at this time.