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Dartmouth Men’s Basketball Players File Petition to Unionize

  • The case is the latest attempt by college athletes and advocates to capitalize on the NLRB’s favorable position toward athlete labor reform.
  • If successful, players would not only gain the right to collectively bargain, but would also be considered university employees.
Justin Lafleur – Dartmouth Athletics

On Wednesday, the Dartmouth men’s basketball team filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize. The team, which included players but not student managers, has filed with the help of the Local 560 chapter of the Service Employees International Union. 

If successful, players would not only gain the right to collectively bargain, but would also be considered university employees.

The team voted “unanimously” to sign the petition, according to SEIU president Mary Kay Henry. “Dartmouth men’s basketball players are showing the world that everybody, no matter their race, industry or occupation, deserves safe working conditions, dignity and a voice on the job,” she said in a statement. “They are joining the hundreds of thousands of young people nationwide who are coming together across race to reject a status quo that has never worked for them and think more boldly than ever before about how to build an economy where everyone can thrive.”

Dartmouth will have an opportunity to recognize the union voluntarily — which is unlikely given that union recognization would go against the NCAA’s amateurism model.

“We have the utmost respect for our students and for unions generally,” a Dartmouth spokesperson told FOS in a statement. “We are carefully considering this petition with the aim of responding promptly yet thoughtfully in accordance with Dartmouth’s educational mission and priorities.”

The case is the latest attempt by college athletes and advocates to capitalize on the NLRB’s favorable position toward athlete labor reform. In 2021, the NLRB’s general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, issued a memo stating her position that many college athletes should be classified as employees under the NLRA.

Two other cases related to college athlete labor rights, though they’re not unionization petitions. 

In February of 2022, an advocacy group called the National College Players Association filed a complaint against USC, the Pac-12, and the NCAA for misclassifying college athletes as amateurs rather than employees. There will be a hearing in November in Los Angeles.

A second complaint was filed against Northwestern after players came forward with allegations of sexual abuse within the football team. 

This isn’t the first time a college sports team has attempted to unionize with the NLRB. In 2014, the Northwestern football team made a push to do so. The NLRB’s national office declined to make a ruling on the case on a technicality: Since the NLRB only has jurisdiction over the private sector, the body didn’t want to allow athletes at private schools at Northwestern to unionize when athletes at public schools may not have the ability to.

This case will likely take at least a year to adjudicate.

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