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NC public school scholarship athletes allowed to join one NC union

This ruling comes after SEANC’s Board of Governors voted to add student-athletes to its membership pool, said Toni Davis, a spokeswoman for the association.

SEANC is a membership organization that lobbies and advocates for public workers on the state level. State law prohibits collective bargaining by unions.

The membership is limited to scholarship student-athletes at public N.C. universities and costs $9 a month. “We would welcome (scholarship athletes) with open arms into the association, and we do hope the athletes will eventually join us at SEANC,” Davis said.

In March, a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board said Northwestern University football players had a right to unionize. The decision is being reviewed by the national office.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said in April the effort to unionize student-athletes was grossly inappropriate. The NCAA did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

For example, athletes could ask for helmets that prevent concussions, said Todd Clark, a professor at N.C. Central University who studies employee discrimination and sports law.

“They may say, ‘We want someone that will go to the legislature and advocate to get another $1,000 to purchase food’ ... They’d have to go through political process of the legislature,” he said.

Clark said it would still be beneficial for athletes to have more of a say in the decisions made by their institutions, conferences and the NCAA.

Houston Summers , a member of the student-athlete academic initiative working group at UNC-CH , said he recently spoke with athletics administrators about the issue.

“Working with a union, a lot of administration might hear the word union and I think they might just shut down,” he said.

Summers, who is on the track and field team, said he thinks athletes could get the representation they need through groups like the Student-Athlete Advisory Council.

“(The council) allows us to express our own voices,” Summers said. “It’s not us going to a union and having the union speak for us.”

Summers said he doesn’t think UNC-CH student-athletes need representation at the state level just yet.

“We don’t have Johnny Manziels running around everywhere,” he said. “So going to the state General Assembly, I just don’t know if it’s necessary yet.”

Senior writers Amanda Albright and Jenny Surane contributed reporting.

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