Dartmouth men’s basketball players file NLRB petition to unionize

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Fifteen Dartmouth men’s basketball players filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to form a union, according to a list of docket activity on the NLRB’s website Thursday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Team managers and supervisors were excluded from the filing, which was issued with the help of the New England-based Local 560 chapter of the Service Employees International Union.
  • This isn’t the first effort to form a union of college athletes, but it could be the first successful attempt. In 2015, Northwestern football players pushed to form a union, but their case was eventually dismissed by the NLRB.
  • There are also cases pending with the board related to college athletes; a November hearing is scheduled for a case related to the NLRB issuing a complaint against the NCAA, Pac-12 Conference and USC over unfair labor practices.


In February, the National College Players Association filed an unfair labor practice charge to the NLRB against the NCAA, Pac-12 and USC as joint employers of FBS football players, men’s basketball players and women’s basketball players. That move was the latest of multiple legal attempts by many to reshape how college athletes can earn compensation for the billions of dollars college sports bring in.

The NCAA has stated that athletes should not be employees and has lobbied Congress for a federal law that designates them as non-employees.

In April, NCAA president Charlie Baker said he believes most college athletes do not want to become employees of their school, league or the NCAA.

“I don’t think you’ll find very many student-athletes who want to be employees,” Baker said at the LEAD1 Association’s annual spring meeting. “I haven’t found many, and there are a lot of really good reasons for that. Obviously, there’s a lot of traffic in the courts at this point about this issue these days, which is going to limit what I would choose to say about it. But I think student-athletes want to be student-athletes, and it’s up to us to figure out how to make that work for them in a variety of environments and in circumstances that are different.

“Maybe there are ways to do this that are different for certain divisions and certain programs at certain levels. But if we’re really serious about being for student-athletes, I’m not sure that they would think that’s where they want to go.”

The NLRB only holds jurisdiction over the private sector, but NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo’s decision to pursue the NCAA and conferences as joint employers in the Pac-12 and USC case could open the possibility that public school players are granted the right to unionize as well.

Dartmouth is a private school and does not offer athletic scholarships, which could add a wrinkle to the case.

This story will be updated.

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(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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