Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont have announced their push for a bill that will allow collegiate athletes to unionize. If passed, the College Athlete Right to Organize Act will offer these athletes the opportunity to organize and make changes on the university and conference levels.
This is a significant change to the status of all NCAA athletes who are on scholarship or receiving any other pay because they will be seen under the law as employees of the university. The status of an athlete’s ability to unionize would not change whether it is a public or private university. Athletes bring in large amounts of revenue from ticket sales and airtime, but these athletes do not reap the benefit of their labor. This bill would allow these athletes to demand change and get out of the organization what they’re putting in.
The push for a change like this has been a focus of the SFC since March of 2019, when Del. Brooke Lierman introduced HB 548, granting college athletes the right to bargain with the university collectively. Since then, Executive Director Of SFC Brian Hess has testified supporting bills like this after watching firsthand everything that student-athletes go through for their university.
This is a huge step for athletes as it allows them to bargain for better compensation for their commitments and other rights usually given to employees. “College athletes are workers. They deserve to pay, a union, and to own their name, image, and likeness. We cannot wait for the NCAA to share its billions with the workers who create it,” stated Sanders. “It is long past time we gave these workers the rights they deserve.”
In return, the NCAA released a statement opposing the bill, stating that “College athletes are students and not employees of their college or university. This bill would directly undercut the purpose of college: earning a degree.”
This comes in response to the recent changes to the rule that athletes couldn’t use their name, likeness, and image for profit. Starting the 2021 school year, athletes can now profit from their name, likeness, and image, along with a huge push for improved safety standards.