A new Congressional bill introduced Thursday will reclassify college athletes as employees at the public institutions they attend to give them the right to unionize.
If passed, the bill would institute a major change in the Labor Relations Act because any student-athlete who receives a scholarship would be classified as a school employee.
Athletes from different schools in the same conference will then have the choice to bargain as a group to negotiate better working conditions.
Senators Chris Murphy and Bernie Sanders, along with Representatives Jamaal Bowman, Andy Levin, and Lori Trahan, are sponsoring the proposed legislation to support college athletes in receiving better protections.
“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,” Murphy said in a statement. “It’s a civil rights issue, and a matter of basic fairness,” he added.
Read More: Why Aren’t College Athletes Paid?
USA Today also reported on a statement released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in disagreement with the proposed bill.
“The NCAA and its member schools support student-athletes through scholarships — many of which cover their full cost of education debt free — and numerous other benefits. NCAA members also are committed to modernizing name, image and likeness rules so student-athletes can benefit from those opportunities but not become employees of their school,” the statement read.
Rep. Trahan responded to the NCAA’s statement on Twitter, saying that the comments were “out of touch” with what student-athletes actually experience.
It's scary how out of touch this statement is with what college athletes actually experience. Athletes are done being told to shut up and be grateful for their scholarship. They're done watching the @NCAA pocket billions off of their labor while they worry about their next meal. https://t.co/L5dqW8psSD
— Congresswoman Lori Trahan (@RepLoriTrahan) May 27, 2021
The new bill will also leave the current tax status of athletic scholarships, as well as athletes’ eligibility for financial aid packages, untouched.