National College Players Association President Ramogi Huma filed a petition in Chicago at the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the players on Tuesday. In order to file the motion, at least 30 percent of employees (27 players) needed to be in favor of the union.
"This is about finally giving college athletes a seat at the table," Huma told ESPN. "Athletes deserve an equal voice when it comes to their physical, academic and financial protections."
NU quarterback Kain Colter contacted Huma last spring about forming a union.
"The action we're taking isn't because of any mistreatment by Northwestern," Colter said. "We love Northwestern," he continued.
"The school is just playing by the rules of their governing body, the NCAA. We're interested in trying to help all players -- at USC, Stanford, Oklahoma State, everywhere. It's about protecting them and future generations to come. Right now the NCAA is like a dictatorship. No one represents us in negotiations. The only way things are going to change is if players have a union."
The NFLPA's Board of Player Representatives passed a resolution in support of Northwestern’s union movement, but the NCAA feels differently about the matter.
"This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education," NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy said in a statement. "Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize."
Colter met with Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald to tell him about the filing. "It couldn't have gone any better," Colter said. "Obviously, he has employers he needs to think about. But he's understanding of what we did, that this is something we feel passionate about, and he wants to make the athletes' experience the best it can be. The team is excited. Their biggest worry was how the head coach was going to take it. It was a big relief for them to hear from me how he reacted."
Colter is hoping to be drafted as a receiver by an NFL team.