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Union Effort At Northwestern May Not Mean Much For Public Colleges

Publication Date: 
April 26, 2014
The New York Times
Steven Greenhouse

Professor William Gould comments on the efforts of college athletes to unionize for The New York Times.

Many football and basketball players at Michigan State, Connecticut and other state universities are no doubt wondering what the Northwestern decision means for them.

When a National Labor Relations Board regional director ruled last month that Northwestern’s scholarship football players could unionize, it was a landmark for college sports — even though the decision was limited to one private university.


William B. Gould IV, an emeritus professor of labor law at Stanford and a chairman of the National Labor Relations Board under President Bill Clinton, agreed, saying that even Democratic state lawmakers may hesitate to let state university athletes unionize.

“The problem here is the players don’t have a natural political constituency,” he said. “Look at the baseball strike; the public got angry at the players.”