College Athlete Union Bill Announced in Congress


On May 27, 2021, members of Congress announced a bill, the “College Athlete Right to Organize Act,” that seeks to provide college student athletes the right to unionize and collectively bargain as employees of their respective collegiate institutions. 

The bill covers student athletes who attend public and private colleges and universities and are paid via direct compensation or attend the schools on scholarship.  Under the bill,  co-authored by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), student athletes can organize by sport across colleges within their conference and can negotiate their pay, the form it takes, as well as other health, safety, and educational standards.  

“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 Sen. Chris Murphy in a statement. “Having the right to [collectively organize] will help athletes get the pay and protections they deserve, and forces the [National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”)] to treat them as equals rather than second-class citizens. It’s a civil rights issue, and a matter of basic fairness.”

Last year, student athletes filed an antitrust class action suit against the NCAA in California federal court over the association’s rules preventing student athletes from making money off their image, name, and likeness.  The NCAA said on May 27, 2021 that it intends to update those rules and allow student athletes to collect pay for athletic endorsements and media appearances without a school’s involvement, but a similar pledge made in January was ultimately shelved.
 

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About Camilo Burr

Camilo Burr's practice is focused on employment and personal injury litigation. Camilo is an associate in the firm's New York office.

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