Dartmouth Basketball Players Have the Potential to Unionize Under NLRB Decision

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Three basketballs lined up on the bottom of the screen leaving space for copy on the upper portion of the image

Some university student employees, such as teaching assistants and on-campus workers, have successfully organized unions in recent years. Now Dartmouth basketball players will have the opportunity to decide on joining a union, marking a potential milestone in the push to unionize college sports. 

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced the decision on Monday, stating that Dartmouth’s basketball team players qualify as employees due to the university’s control over their work and the compensation they receive. Dartmouth President Sian Beilock contested the finding, emphasizing the institution’s view of athletes as students, not employees.

The Service Employees International Union, who seek to represent the players, argued that despite the absence of scholarships, the players receive compensation in the form of room and board, equipment, tickets, footwear, facility access, and academic support. This NLRB consideration echoes a similar case in 2014-2015 involving Northwestern University football players. In that instance the NLRB board prevented a vote, citing jurisdictional limitations at public institutions.

When the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that NCAA rules restricting compensation for student athletes violated antitrust laws in 2021, it was a significant shift that paved the way for increased compensation for players. NCAA Division I athletics generated $17.5 billion in revenue in 2022, with Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team reporting $1.3 million in revenue for the 2021-22 school year.

The ongoing debate and legal developments underscore the evolving landscape of labor relations within collegiate athletics.