House panel to examine Northwestern football union decision


House Republicans will scrutinize the Northwestern University football team's attempt to unionize at a congressional hearing next week.  

The House Education and Workforce Committee announced Thursday it will examine the consequences of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision to allow the school's football team to organize the first union for college athletes.

The hearing will take place on May 8.

“The NLRB’s decision represents a radical departure from longstanding federal labor policies,” Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) said in a statement. “Classifying student athletes as employees threatens to fundamentally alter college sports, as well as reduce education access and opportunity. The committee has a responsibility to thoroughly examine how the NLRB’s decision will affect students and their ability to receive a quality education.”

NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr decided in March that the school's football players should be considered employees, which would give them the right to unionize. The NLRB last week agreed to review the case.

Northwestern's football players voted last Friday on whether to form a union, but the NLRB said it will not release the results of the vote unless it upholds Ohr's decision.

Kline and the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) have both been vocal critics of the NLRB and have zeroed in on the agency's Northwestern decision. 

But the committee's leading Democrat, Rep. George Miller (Calif.), recently met with union officials who are trying to organize the Northwestern football team to voice his support for their efforts.