Unionization Vote: Dartmouth College Basketball Players Make Historic Decision

Hanover, New Hampshire – The men’s basketball team at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire is set to make a groundbreaking decision. They will have the opportunity to vote on whether they should become the first college athletes to be members of a union.

This move follows a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which found that the Dartmouth basketball players are considered “employees” and therefore have the right to union representation. The decision has potential implications for the ongoing efforts to unionize college sports, a highly lucrative industry.

Dartmouth College will challenge the NLRB’s finding, with President Sian Beilock asserting that they view their athletes as students and do not provide athletic scholarships. However, the union seeking to represent the basketball players argues that the players receive compensation in various forms, such as room and board, equipment, apparel, tickets to games, footwear, and academic support.

This is not the first time the NLRB has considered whether student athletes should be eligible for union representation. In a previous case involving football players at Northwestern University, the NLRB was unable to complete a vote, citing jurisdictional issues. However, the regional director in the current case contends that there is no precedent ruling that team-by-team organizing is never appropriate, leaving the door open for union representation for college athletes.

The landscape of college sports has been evolving, with the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in 2021 against NCAA rules prohibiting compensation to student athletes. This has paved the way for greater compensation and raises questions about the rights and status of student athletes in the collegiate sports system.

NCAA Division I athletics generated nearly $17.5 billion in revenue in 2022, emphasizing the financial stakes involved in college sports. The potential unionization of college athletes also raises broader questions about the nature of their roles and compensation within the NCAA system, especially as other sectors of the workforce, such as graduate student teaching assistants, have seen success in union organizing campaigns.