The NLRB and College Athletics: Labor Unions at the Gymnasium Door

February 28, 2024

By: Thomas G. Eron, Richard J. Evrard, and Peter A. Jones

On February 5, 2024, the NLRB Regional Director (RD) for Region 1 (Boston) issued a decision finding that Dartmouth Men’s Basketball players are employees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which covers private institutions, in a proceeding brought by the Service Employees Union (SEIU). The RD scheduled an election among the basketball players for March 5, 2024 to determine whether those athletes are to be represented by the union for purposes of collective bargaining.

Dartmouth is the first decision to act on the expansive, aggressive interpretation of the NLRA, advanced by the NLRB General Counsel, to extend the protections of that law to student-athletes. 

This decision has far-reaching implications for private institutions, their athletic administrators, and coaching staff on their relationships with student athletes, and the potential that the substantial obligations imposed on employers by the NLRA will now govern the interaction among student athletes, coaches and administrators. 

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