Dartmouth Men’s Basketball Players Vote to Unionize

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Dartmouth Hall, Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.
Source: Dylan (Kane5187)

After the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) gave Dartmouth College men’s basketball players the go-ahead to unionize in Feb. 2024, the team voted 13-2 to form a union on Mar. 5, 2024.

In the NLRB decision, regional director Laura Sacks, writes, “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.”

Dartmouth disagrees: “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. However, we do not believe these students are employees,” says Dartmouth associate vice president for communications Diana Lawrence.

The college has requested a review by the full NLRB board and refuses to work with the unionized basketball players to form a collective bargaining agreement. Dartmouth referred to the players as “students whose educational program includes athletics.”

Juniors Cade Haskins and Romeo Myrthil, who spearheaded the union effort, say, “We stuck together all season and won this election. It is self-evident that we, as students, can also be both campus workers and union members. Dartmouth seems to be stuck in the past. It’s time for the age of amateurism to end.” 

1. Should college athletes be considered employees and be allowed to unionize? Why or why not?

2. Should college athletes be compensated in some other way? Explain your answer(s).

3. Are college athletes students first and athletes second? Explain your answer.

AP News, “Dartmouth Refuses to Work with Basketball Players’ Union, Potentially Sending Case to Federal Court,” apnews.com, Mar. 18, 2024

Jimmy Golen, “Labor Victory for Dartmouth Basketball Players Only Start of Path to a Union Deal,” apnews.com, Mar. 5, 2024

Jimmy Golen and Ralph D. Russo, “US Labor Official Says Dartmouth Basketball Players Are School Employees, Sets Stage for Union Vote,” apnews.com, Feb. 6, 2024

Jimmy Golen and Ralph D. Russo, “Dartmouth Men’s Basketball Team Votes to Unionize, Though Steps Remain before Forming Labor Union,” apnews.com, Mar. 5, 2024

Santul Nerkar, “Dartmouth Players Are Employees Who Can Unionize, U.S. Official Says,” nytimes.com, Feb. 5 2024