Dartmouth College men's basketball player Jaren Johnson dribbles in a game vs Columbia

Dartmouth College guard Jaren Johnson dribbles past Columbia University's Kenny Noland in a 72-56 loss on February 3, 2024 home game at Leede Arena in Hanover, New Hampshire.

(Photo: Dartmouth College Men's Basketball/X)

NLRB Opens Door for NCAA Student-Athletes to Unionize

A National Labor Relations Board regional director found that members of Dartmouth's men's basketball team are "employees" and ordered a union election.

"It's time for worker power in the NCAA."

That was the message from labor advocate More Perfect Union Monday after the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that the student-athletes of Dartmouth College's men's basketball team are employees of the school with collective bargaining rights.

Refuting the New Hampshire school's claim that the players are not employees and that asserting jurisdiction over them would "create instability in labor relations," Laura Sacks, the NLRB's regional director in Boston, said in her ruling: "I find that because Dartmouth has the right to control the work performed by the men's varsity basketball team, and because the players perform that work in exchange for compensation, the petitioned-for basketball players are employees. Additionally, I find that asserting jurisdiction would not create instability in labor relations."

"Accordingly," she added, "I shall direct an election in the petitioned-for unit."

Last year, Dartmouth players petitioned the NLRB to organize with a local branch of the Service Employees International Union. Colleges and universities have been pushing Congress to enact legislation barring student-athletes from being classified as employees, arguing that being forced to provide pay and benefits and allowing them to form or join unions threatens their multibillion-dollar monopoly.

If the Dartmouth players choose to unionize, they'll be the first NCAA student-athletes to do so.

"The NCAA brings in $1 billion each year," More Pefect Unionrecently noted. "Its coaches are multimillionaires. Schools and TV networks are making fortunes. But most college athletes make zero, for the sole reason that the NCAA chooses to exploit them. It's time for this to change."

Dartmouth College said Monday that it would repeal the NLRB ruling.

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