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March 26, 2014

NLRB ruling: Northwestern players can unionize

A federal agency ruled Wednesday that football players at Northwestern University can create the country’s first union of college athletes.

The decision, handed down by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, means the board agrees that the players qualify as employees of the university as defined under federal law and thus can legally unionize.

Northwestern, based in Evanston, Ill., argued that the players are students, not employees, and as such do not fit in the same category as factory workers, truck drivers and other unionized workers. The school plans to appeal the decision to the full NLRB board in Washington, D.C.

The ruling — seen by many as a potentially landmark decision affecting college athletics — applies only to athletes at private universities.

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