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"Kain and our student-athletes have followed their beliefs with great passion and courage," Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald tweeted. "I’m incredibly proud of our young men! GO CATS!"
NLRB spokesman Gregory King confirmed that a petition by the players to form a union was filed at the board on Tuesday. King said the board would likely conduct a hearing within the next 10 days.
The key issue the board must resolve is whether the football players are employees as defined by federal labor law, said United Steelworkers official Tim Waters. If they’re deemed employees, he said, they would have the legal right to organize.
"It’s crystal clear that college football players are employees," he said, arguing most put in a 40-hour work week and create revenue, though not for themselves. He and the Steelworkers president, Leo W. Gerard, said the relationship between colleges and athletes amounted to "pay for play."
William B. Gould IV, a Stanford Law School professor emeritus and former NLRB chairman, predicted the board will rule for the players.
"The major obstacle is the Brown University decision of a decade ago," he said, referring to a 2004 decision under a George W. Bush-era board that removed the right of graduate students at private universities to unionize.
The NLRB said in 2012 that it will reconsider Brown, and Gould thinks it will be reversed.
"I think these guys are employees because their compensation is unrelated to education, unlike the teaching assistants in Brown University, and they are supervised not by faculty, but by coaches," Gould said. "Their program for which they receive compensation does not have a fundamentally educational component. So given the direction and control that supervisory authorities have over them, I think they are easily employees within the meaning of the act."
Rauch, the labor attorney, said he thought union-minded athletes will have a tough time demonstrating they are employees, and he thought their chances of prevailing were slim.
"They have high hurdles to jump," he said.
AP writers Ronald Blum and Sam Hananel contributed to this report.
Follow Michael Tarm at https://twitter.com/mtarm
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