Northwestern University's football players seek union representation, for reasons that echo those of railroad workers seven score years ago.
“Despite the progress [the National College Players Association] has made, college athletes continue to be subject to unjust and unethical treatment in NCAA sports despite the extraordinary value they bring to their universities,” said [association president Ramogi] Huma, a former linebacker at UCLA. “They’re too often left to pay for medical expenses during and after their college careers, they can be stripped of their scholarship for any reason, including injury.”

Huma filed the petition in Chicago on behalf of football players at Northwestern, submitting the form at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board to recognize a new union, the College Athletes Players Association.
A railroad man who lost fingers or a hand setting the pin on nineteenth-century rolling stock would be without compensation, or without income going forward.  It's instructive that Northwestern, a university with a football team (unlike Miami of Florida, Oklahoma State, or, troublingly, North Carolina, where it's the other way around) becomes the test case.  Current Northwestern director of athletics Jim Phillips (formerly of Northern Illinois) recognizes as much.
"We are pleased to note that the Northwestern students involved in this effort emphasized that they are not unhappy with the University, the football program or their treatment here, but are raising the concerns because of the importance of these issues nationally.

"Northwestern believes that our student-athletes are not employees and collective bargaining is therefore not the appropriate method to address these concerns. However, we agree that the health and academic issues being raised by our student-athletes and others are important ones that deserve further consideration."
Compensation in kind, which is what tuition waivers and priority scheduling and a chance at playing on Sunday are, is compensation, and the lawyering-up over what constitutes an employee has only begun.

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