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Dartmouth Refuses to Bargain With Newly Formed Men’s Basketball Player Union

  • Two weeks ago, Dartmouth men’s basketball players voted to form a union.
  • The school has taken the next step in a lengthy, two-pronged appeals process to stop the players union.
Alison A. Redlich, for USA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC

On Monday, Dartmouth announced it would not engage in collective bargaining negotiations with men’s basketball players, who voted to unionize two weeks ago. The historic union vote, allowing all 15 players to become members of the Service Employees International Union Local 560 chapter, was certified by the National Labor Relations Board just last week.

The news was expected, and it is yet another step in a lengthy, two-pronged appeals process through which Dartmouth will fight varsity player unionization. That process could take several years and go all the way up to the Supreme Court. (It is one of several labor and antitrust cases challenging amateurism, all of which could come to a head over the next few years.)

The Dartmouth unionization effort, which also recognizes players as employees, would unravel the NCAA’s business model of amateurism if it succeeds. Players would be entitled to everything from wages and augmented health-care benefits to employee protections like workers’ compensation. That’s probably why the school has never fought a unionization effort as hard as administrators are fighting the players union. The school called the refusal to bargain an “unprecedented” step in its history with SEIU. 

“While we continue to negotiate in good faith with multiple unions representing Dartmouth employees, our responsibility to future generations of students means we must explore all our legal options for challenging the regional director’s legal error,” the school said in a statement.

Dartmouth has already filed a formal appeal of the player organizing effort with the NLRB’s national board, and it previously tried to get the vote stopped and case dismissed. It is refusing to collectively bargain in order to trigger another legal mechanism: SEIU Local 560 will file an unfair labor practice charge against the school, a separate but related case that could be appealed into the federal court system.

Late on Monday, Local 560 issued a statement on the matter, saying: “We are disappointed Dartmouth has taken the highly unusual step of publicly declaring its intention to flout the law, even inviting players to file an unfair labor practice. … That the school will refuse to negotiate with 15 campus employees is not only illegal, but also immoral. An $8 billion institution is saying it will ignore the law to avoid negotiating over wages and other working conditions with the young men who exorcised their right to form a union. Dartmouth College is snubbing its nose at the NLRB and refusing to allow its directives. It isn’t right and it contravenes Dartmouth’s stated values.”

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