Despite Federal Agency's Ruling, Kentucky College Athletes Can't Unionize
A federal agency’s landmark decision will allow the Northwestern University football team to seek unionization. Kentucky college athletes currently cannot do the same.
Labor Cabinet spokesman Daniel Lowry said under state law, members of university organizations cannot be considered employees for their work.
“It also says explicitly, ‘Also, the fact that a student may receive a minimum payment for participating in activities would not necessarily create an employment relationship.’ (…) Here in Kentucky, we’re already kind of covered,” Lowry said.
The National Labor Relations Board concluded that as Northwestern players operate under a supervisor and earn scholarships, they are technically university employees.
Murray State University Athletic Director Allen Ward declined to comment, but Austin Peay State University Athletic Director and former football player Derek van der Merwe is against the decision. He said college athletes are first and foremost students, and that a university’s job is to foster academic development.
“The best thing that I’ve ever done in my life is get an undergraduate degree, and sports afforded me that opportunity. Unfortunately, I believe that there’s many people today that - they get into college - that don’t realize the value of that education,” van der Merwe said.
Northwestern University said in a statement that it will appeal the decision.
For more information about Kentucky’s definition of an employee-employer relationship, follow this link.