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Northwestern players vote on whether to unionize

Nati Harnik/Associated Press
Pat Fitzgerald believes it would not be in the best interest of Northwestern players to unionize.

Northwestern's scholarship players voted Friday morning on whether to be represented by a union, but their vote is supposed to remain a secret until after an appeal is heard by the National Labor Relations Board on whether the players can unionize.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the school was not allowing reporters to be present at Welsh-Ryan Arena, where the vote took place. Tribune reporter Teddy Greenstein tweeted early Friday afternoon that he had talked with a Northwestern player who told Greenstein he was "80 percent sure" the vote was "no."

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Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald has been vocal in his opinion that players do not need a union. He sent an e-mail to his players saying, "Understand that by voting to have a union, you would be transferring your trust from those you know -- me, your coaches and the administrators here -- to what you don't know -- a third party who may or may not have the team's best interests in mind."

Projected starting quarterback Trevor Siemian also has expressed a view that players don't need the union and said, "I'll say there's a significant number of guys on the team who feel the same as me."

In March, a regional director of the NLRB ruled that Northwestern's scholarship football players are university employees, which set up Friday's vote on whether to join a union. But Northwestern has appealed that ruling to the NLRB's national office in Washington, and the NLRB agreed to review the case. The ruling can be reversed, affirmed or modified.

Friday's ballots are to remain secret until NLRB rules on the appeal. There is no public timetable for the appeal to be heard.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.



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