Dartmouth men’s basketball players file NLRB petition to unionize

Men’s basketball players at Dartmouth College filed a petition Wednesday with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize that, if successful, would formally make them employees of the private Ivy League school and give them the right to collectively bargain.

The players are looking to join the Local 560 chapter of the Service Employees International Union, per the petition, which lists the team’s 15 players but excludes managers and supervisors.

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

The team’s efforts represent the latest chapter in college athletes’ broader push to gain control over their status and classification.

The NLRB, a federal agency that enforces U.S. labor law related to collective bargaining and unfair labor practices, deterred a 2014 attempt by Northwestern football players to unionize. It changed course after a 2021 change in leadership.

Later that year, the national board issued a memo saying it considers college football players and some other athletes in revenue-generating sports to be employees of their schools, opening the door for athletes at private universities to negotiate on issues of player health, compensation and other working conditions.

In a statement accompanying that memo, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo said players are employees “who have the right to act collectively to improve their terms and conditions of employment.” The memo, she said, was to “help educate the public, especially Players at Academic Institutions, colleges and universities, athletic conferences, and the NCAA, about the legal position that I will be taking regarding employee status and misclassification in appropriate cases.”

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Wednesday’s petition follows a pair of NLRB complaints filed earlier this year, though neither concerns unionization.

In May, the organization’s Los Angeles office issued a complaint against the University of Southern California, the Pac-12 conference and the NCAA, alleging that they unlawfully misclassified college athletes in men’s and women’s basketball and football as “student-athletes” rather than employees.

The NLRB in July received an unfair labor practice complaint filed against Northwestern. The complaint, filed by Michael Hsu, co-founder of the College Basketball Players Association, argued that Northwestern violated federal law by misclassifying its players as student-athletes. Hsu told CBS Sports the complaint was motivated by the school calling players student-athletes during its ongoing investigation into hazing allegations related to the football team.

The Dartmouth petition comes eight years after the NLRB thwarted the Northwestern football unionization attempt, saying it considered college athletics beyond its jurisdiction. That decision ignored a 2014 ruling by Peter Sung Ohr — a regional NLRB director who now serves as the organization’s deputy general counsel — that said football players at Northwestern were employees entitled to organize.

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