Players of Dartmouth College’s Men’s Basketball team have petitioned to unionize in a move that, if successful, could be a first in Division One college athletics.
(Bloomberg) — Players of Dartmouth College’s Men’s Basketball team have petitioned to unionize in a move that, if successful, could be a first in Division One college athletics.
In their Wednesday filing, organizers are petitioning to represent what they say is a group of 15 employees, a number that matches the entire team according to the Dartmouth College roster. A spokesperson for the National Labor Relations Board confirmed the filing.
Football players at Northwestern University previously sought to unionize in 2014, but their effort was ultimately dismissed by the NLRB after the university said they were not employees.
“We are carefully considering this petition with the aim of responding promptly yet thoughtfully in accordance with Dartmouth’s educational mission and priorities,” a Dartmouth University spokesperson said in an email.
Under US law, if the majority of a group of employees sign up to unionize, their employer has the choice to either voluntarily recognize and collectively bargain with them, or hold out for a government-run secret ballot election.
The Dartmouth players likely have a long legal battle ahead to show that they actually have the right to unionize. US universities have insisted for decades that their athletes are not employees.
NLRB members ruled that the Northwestern players’ unionization ballots should not be counted, saying that doing so wouldn’t advance the purposes of US labor law. But the current NLRB general counsel appointee Jennifer Abruzzo, has said that at least some college athletes are in fact employees with organizing rights.
Earlier this year Abruzzo issued a complaint accusing the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Pac-12 Conference, and the University of Southern California of misclassifying their football and basketball players as non-employees “to intentionally deprive the players of their rights” under federal law.
In an interview in January, Abruzzo said those players were subject to “an extreme amount of control over the number of practices, their schedules, where they live, and what they can do.” The NCAA and USC denied wrongdoing.
The listed petitioner for the Dartmouth filing is the Service Employees International union, Local 560, located in Concord, New Hampshire.
Coming soon: Sign up for Bloomberg’s Business of Sports newsletter for the context you need on the collision of power, money and sports, from the latest deals to the newest stakeholders. Delivered weekly.
(Updated with additional context throughout.)
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.