A National Labor Relations Board regional director ruled Monday that the men’s basketball players at Dartmouth are employees and therefore can vote to unionize.
The team’s 15 members filed a petition last September seeking to join the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union in Hanover, N.H., where the Ivy League college is located.
“Because Dartmouth has the right to control the work performed by the Dartmouth men’s basketball team, and the players perform that work in exchange for compensation, I find that the petitioned-for basketball players are employees within the meaning of the (National Labor Relations) Act,” NLRB Regional Director Laura Sacks wrote in a decision.
Sacks also said that Dartmouth “exercises significant control over the basketball players’ work.” She responded to one of Dartmouth’s contentions — that recognizing basketball players as employees would lead to students involved in other extracurricular activities to seek the same status — by arguing that other campus activities do not “dominate” students’ schedules the way basketball does for the athletes.
When members of the Northwestern football team attempted to unionize in 2014, the university appealed a regional director’s decision and brought it to the national board. The NLRB in August 2015 decided not to accept jurisdiction over the matter.
Since then, the NLRB has shown it has become more willing to consider college athletes as employees. In a memo on Sept. 29, 2021, NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo took the position that some student-athletes are employees under the National Labor Relations Act and should receive employee protections.
Being recognized as employees of Dartmouth would mark a historic moment for college athletics, as the NCAA has long held that athletes must remain amateurs. Student-athletes only were allowed to capitalize on their own names, images and likenesses in 2021 following a Supreme Court case.
“Our team is thrilled about the positive ruling from the NLRB regional office in Boston regarding our efforts to unionize,” Dartmouth player representatives Cade Haskins and Romeo Myrthil said in a statement. “This is a significant step forward for college athletes, and we are excited to see how this decision will impact college sports nationwide. We believe that other athletes will recognize the opportunities this ruling presents and will be inspired to follow suit. In light of this, we are proud to announce we will form the Ivy League Players Association for basketball players across the league.”
–Field Level Media
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