College athletes are workers, and they deserve to get paid. They put their bodies and futures on the line for the profit of their schools, without seeing real compensation for their labour. However, things are changing. For instance, a 2021 Supreme Court decision upholding a lower court decision that found the NCAA were being anti-competitive in capitalizing on the name, image, and likeness of their players, while not letting the players do the same. Plus, a November memo from the National Labor Relations Board that noted student-athletes have been misclassified as ‘student athletes’ – they are, in fact, employees with a right to organize. On this episode of Darts and Letters, we go downfield to look at university labour and the battle for union rights.
- First (@6:40), get to know the College Football Player Association. It’s not a union, but it’s growing a membership base and who knows where that will lead. Ed Garret, a brand ambassador with the group and former cornerback at the University of Mexico, takes us through his time (and injuries) in college football and the working conditions college athletes face on the field, off the field, and in the classroom.
- Then (@30:39), labour organizing isn’t just for college athletes. And it’s on the rise on campuses across North America. We talk to JP Hornick, bargaining chair with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, and Glynis Price, president of the Concordia University of Edmonton Faculty Association, about their strikes. Then, Helena Worthen and Joe Barry are scholars, organizers, and the co-authors of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the Contingent Faculty Movement in Higher Education. They tell us about successful labour strategies in academia, and why university workers are no different from other workers.
——————-FURTHER READING AND LISTENING——————
- Read the NLRB’s memo on employee status for college athletes and see more on the push to organize from In These Times. See more on the NCAA Supreme Court decision. Also, check out the College Football Players Association and the National College Players Association.
- Have a look at Joe Berry and Helena Worthen’s Pluto Press book Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the Contingent Faculty Movement in Higher Education.
- Dig into stories of on-campus unionization and other strike efforts across North America: a University of California lecturer strike, a Howard University housing protest, a student workers strike and Columbia University, a faculty strike at Ontario Tech University, OPSEU vs. CEC, and a Concordia University of Edmonton faculty and administration strike. Then peruse the list of student employee unions.
- And have a listen to episodes 20 and 21 of Between the Lines: A Podcast About Sports and the Law to learn more about college athletes and labour rights.
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This episode had support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. It was part of a wider project looking at neoliberal educational reforms. The lead is Dr. Marc Spooner at the University of Regina and Franklynn Bartol at the University of Toronto. They provided research and advising on this episode.
Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples.