Dartmouth Basketball Players to Vote on Unionization in Potential Breakthrough for College Sports
In a potential breakthrough for the unionization of college sports, Dartmouth basketball players will soon have the opportunity to vote on whether to join a union. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently determined that these athletes are considered “employees” due to Dartmouth’s control over their work and compensation. However, Dartmouth plans to challenge this finding, arguing that their athletes are students rather than employees.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has been advocating for the rights of college athletes, argues that although the players do not receive scholarships, they do receive compensation in the form of benefits and support. This compensation is a crucial factor in considering them as employees.
This is not the first time the NLRB has delved into the eligibility of student athletes for union representation. A previous case involving football players at Northwestern University was considered, although the NLRB did not ultimately rule on their employee status. However, they did determine that they did not have jurisdiction over college football programs at state schools.
A significant influence on the current case may be the Supreme Court ruling in 2021, which found that NCAA rules prohibiting compensation to student athletes violated antitrust laws. This ruling shed light on the importance of fair compensation for college athletes and may have bolstered the argument for treating them as employees.
While professional sports are heavily unionized, the idea of unionizing college athletes is relatively new. NCAA Division I athletics alone generated a staggering $17.5 billion in revenue in 2022, further highlighting the need for ensuring athletes’ rights and fair treatment.
It is worth noting that other university students, such as graduate student teaching assistants, have successfully joined unions in the past. However, their status as employees is less disputed since they receive regular compensation for their work.
As the Dartmouth basketball players prepare to vote, this case could have far-reaching implications for the future of college sports. If they are successful in unionizing, it may pave the way for athletes from other institutions to follow suit, challenging the long-standing perception that college athletes are merely students.