NLRB Rules Dartmouth’s Men’s Varsity Basketball Players Are Employees

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Dartmouth College campus


The National Labor Relations Board Region 1 director ruled Monday that the men’s varsity basketball team players at Dartmouth College are employees and ordered a union election be held to vote on representation by SEIU Local 560.

Regional Director Laura A. Sacks concluded, “Because Dartmouth has the right to control the work performed by the Dartmouth men’s basketball team, and the players perform that work in exchange for compensation, I find that the petitioned-for basketball players are employees within the meaning of the [National Labor Relations] Act.”

Monday’s decision was issued after a representation hearing was held before a hearing officer of the NLRB on October 5, 6, 10, and 11, 2023, according to a press release. 

State Rep. Mark Mackenzie, D-Manchester, former president of the NH AFL-CIO, said: “This is a big deal. This gives them the right to move forward with their petition.”

MacKenzie said there will definitely be challenges by the college.

It would be the first labor union for NCAA athletes, according to the Associated Press.

“If they prevail, they will be the exclusive representatives” in negotiating salary and work conditions with the college. “It’s a big deal from the college sports perspective with implications throughout the whole college ball environment,” MacKenzie said.

“It’s a big deal for colleges who use these people – they make money from these teams, tremendous money. I would think other places will follow suit making the whole college ball environment very nervous,” MacKenzie said.

Justin Anderson, Senior Vice President for Communications at Dartmouth said in an email: “Dartmouth’s mission is to educate the most promising students and prepare them for a lifetime of responsible leadership, and this applies equally to our students who participate in varsity athletics. Our students come to Dartmouth to learn, conduct research, and pursue their academic goals. Similarly, our athletes’ primary focus is learning, and our guiding principle is that students are scholars first and athletes second.

“We are extremely proud of our varsity athletics program for the important values it promotes and the experience it provides for both our athletes and our broader community. But it’s important to understand that unlike other institutions where athletics generates millions of dollars in net revenue, the costs of Dartmouth’s athletics program far exceed any revenue from the program – costs that Dartmouth bears as part of our participation in the Ivy League. We also do not compensate our athletes, nor do we provide athletic scholarships; all scholarships are based on financial need.

“For those reasons, among others, we believe firmly that unionization is not appropriate in this instance and we will be seeking a review of the decision the Regional Director issued today. Regardless, Dartmouth has a long and proud history of productive relationships with unions on campus, always negotiates in good faith when appropriate and respects the rights of workers to unionize,” Anderson said. 

The date of the election has not yet been determined but will be set in an upcoming Notice of Election.  

Parties can appeal the Regional Director’s decision, however the election can move forward if an RFR is pending before the Board.

The order is here: Decision and Direction of Election ordering a union election for men’s varsity basketball team players at Dartmouth College to vote on representation by SEIU Local 560 (01-RC-325633).

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