Monday, March 16, 2015

Connecticut Bill Could Provide Student-Athletes at Public Colleges and Universities with State Employee Status

Representative Matthew Lesser recently introduced a bill in the Connecticut legislature that would amend the Connecticut General Statutes so that student-athletes attending public universities and colleges would be considered employees for the purposes of entering into and negotiating collective bargaining agreements. As the bill is presently drafted, to be considered an employee, a student would need to receive a scholarship for at least 900% of the cost of tuition; the scholarship would need to be materially related to the student’s expected participation in intercollegiate athletics; and the revenues generated by the institution for the athletic program that the student would be participating in would need to meet a certain threshold. Per the Hartford Courant, UConn football and basketball players would be the only college athletes in the state who would be considered employees if the bill is passed as-is.

Connecticut General Statutes Section 5-271(a) provides that employees are protected in the exercise of their right to self-organize by forming, joining, or assisting any employee organization in collectively bargaining to resolve concerns related to wages, hours, and employment conditions. While being able to participate in collective bargaining may be advantageous for student-athletes, there are concerns that the costs associated with supporting unionization could decrease the funding that universities are able to allocate to other sports that do not generate revenue. The NCAA has taken the position that student-athletes should not be considered employees, and in December, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a Public Act banning student-athletes enrolled in public universities and colleges from unionizing.