The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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April 5, 2014

Union says other college teams in play

CHICAGO — Players from other universities have expressed interest in forming unions in the wake of the landmark decision last week involving the Northwestern football team, a union organizer said Friday.

Tim Waters of the United Steelworkers would not disclose the players or their schools, saying it was too early to reveal who they are. But he said they reached out following the decision last week by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board declaring Northwestern's football players have the right to form a union.

"We're not giving out who it is or who they are, but the answer is yes," said Waters. "There's a lot of excitement out there. We've been contacted by a number of players."

A member of Wisconsin's Final Four basketball team said he participated in weekly conference calls in recent months with the union and Ramogi Huma, head of the National College Players Association, and other players. The NCPA and the steelworkers are working together on the union push, with the NCAA, Big Ten Conference and Northwestern opposing the move.

"I don't know exactly how many there were. But on average on a weekly call there were probably 10 or 20, at least," said Zach Bohannon, a reserve on the team. "So it was definitely a unique experience just hearing the concerns that players all over the country had, and then just voicing my opinion."

Northwestern players will vote April 25 on whether to become the first college athletes represented by a union. But it could be years, if ever, before college athletes are given a seat at the bargaining table to discuss things like practice hours, medical care and concussions.

Still, Waters said the publicity generated by the ruling that Northwestern football players are employees and can unionize has made more players aware that they, too, could have bargaining rights.

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