The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday December 4th

UNC athletes haven't unionized despite ruling

Despite a ruling that allowed scholarship student-athletes at UNC-system schools to join the State Employees Association of North Carolina, none have joined yet, said Toni Davis, a spokeswoman for the union.

In May 2014, the union ruled that because they fall under the definition of a state employee, scholarship student-athletes at UNC-system schools could join.

Davis said they are at the planning and development stage of deciding the role that student-athletes would have in the union, but the opportunity is currently available for student-athletes to join the association.

“Right now, what we did in our original vote at the association was simply to amend our rules to allow (scholarship student) athletes to join the association,” Davis said.

Frank LoMonte, the Student Press Law Center director, said joining a union in North Carolina may not entail the same benefits as joining a union in another state.

“There is a state law that prevents employees of a government agency, such as UNC, from engaging in ‘collective bargaining’ with their employer,” he said in an email. “Meaning a negotiation that leads to a binding contract about working conditions.”

Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham said he closely followed a March ruling by a regional office of the National Labor Relations Board that recognized scholarship football players as employees under labor laws. He said he worried the ruling would change student-athletes’ relationship with universities — turning athletes into employees instead of students.

“I’m concerned about it because it affects the collegiate model,” he said. “It affects what we do at 1,100 NCAA institutions. There are 460,000 student athletes at the NCAA level.”

“If you become a union, now you negotiate all of your compensation issues,” he said. “It’s limitless to what you could negotiate.”

Cunningham said the possible negotiations could be a salary, the number of classes one would have to take, health care benefits and parking passes.

Houston Summers, a junior and member of the track team, said it’s not a good idea for student-athletes to join the union.

“I believe there are systems in place that allow student-athletes to be respected as they should be,” he said.

Summers was 17 and in his senior year of high school when he was drafted to play baseball with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has seen how the professional model works and doesn’t see it transitioning well to the collegiate level.

“I truly believe if (the professional athletics system) is brought to the collegiate level, it’s going to affect diversity,” he said.

“It’s going to affect overall student experience. It’s going to narrow opportunities for individuals to go to college just because the only programs that will be able to be supported are revenue sports.”


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