In an exceptional development that could dramatically change collegiate sports in the United States, the Regional Director for Region 1 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recognized the fifteen players of the Dartmouth College men’s varsity basketball team as employees with a right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), in a decision issued on February 5, 2024. As a result, the players are eligible to vote on whether they want to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, Local 560 for collective bargaining purposes. If a majority of the voting players vote in favor of the union, they will create the first-ever union of NCAA athletes.
The Dartmouth College decision signifies a shift by the NLRB. In 2015, the NLRB declined to exercise jurisdiction over a similar bid to unionize by Northwestern’s football team, thereby declining that opportunity to recognize student athletes as employees at that time. The opportunity was seized in the Dartmouth College decision, however, as the Regional Director distinguished the Northwestern decision – perhaps most notably, based on the fact that Dartmouth College competed in the Ivy League Conference, exclusively with other private schools that were subject to the NLRB’s jurisdiction, where Northwestern competed in the Big Ten Conference, in which every other school in the conference was a state-run institution that was not subject to the NLRB’s jurisdiction.Continue Reading NLRB’s recognition of Dartmouth College men’s basketball team as employees could change collegiate sports forever