Democrats Introduce Bill Giving College Athletes Right To Organize

Last week, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the College Athlete Right to Organize Act, legislation to provide collective bargaining rights for college athletes.

Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Andy Levin and Lori Trahan introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The College Athlete Right to Organize Act is supported by the AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers, and Advancement of Blacks in Sports.

“Big time college sports haven’t been ‘amateur’ for a long time, and the NCAA has long denied its players economic and bargaining rights while treating them like commodities,” said Murphy. “That’s why I’m introducing the College Athlete Right to Organize Act, which finally recognizes college athletes as employees and allows athletes to collectively bargain with their colleges and across conferences.”

“Having the right to do so will help athletes get the pay and protections they deserve and forces the NCAA to treat them as equals rather than second-class citizens. It’s a civil rights issue, and a matter of basic fairness.”

“College athletes are workers. They deserve pay, a union, and to own their own name, image, and likeness. We cannot wait for the NCAA to share its billions with the workers who create it,” said Sen. Sanders. “It is long past time we gave these workers the rights they deserve.”

The College Athlete Right to Organize Act will help college athletes collectively bargain by:

  •   Amending the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to define any college athlete as an employee of their college if they receive direct compensation from their college, whether in the form of grant-in-aid or other forms of compensation, and such compensation requires participation in intercollegiate sports, which clarifies athletes’ employment status and right to collectively bargain.
  • Amending the NLRA to define public colleges, alongside private institutions, as employers within the context of intercollegiate sports, allowing athletes to collectively bargain at any college, regardless of state laws that restrict their basic labor rights.
  • Facilitating multiemployer bargaining units for college athletes by directing the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to consider the colleges within an athletic conference as part of a bargaining unit with which college athletes can negotiate, helping athletes negotiate across programs and within their respective conferences.
  •  Asserting the NLRB’s jurisdiction over all institutions of higher education within the context of intercollegiate athletics, and on all collective bargaining and representation matters as well as labor disputes, which gives college athletes the ability to petition the NLRB to handle any issues that may arise in the process of collective bargaining.
  •   Prohibiting any agreements, such as scholarship agreements, which waive the right of athletes to collectively bargain.


This NCAA said the bill would “directly undercut the purpose of college: earning a degree.” It added that “turning student-athletes into union employees is not the answer.

”If Murphy’s bill became law, athletes would be granted employee status and both public and private colleges would deemed their employers under an amended NLRA.



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