HUGE: Dartmouth Basketball Players Vote To Unionize

The Dartmouth College men’s basketball team voted Tuesday to unionize, becoming the first-ever U.S. collegiate athletes to do so—but the private New Hampshire university is mounting a challenge to the move that could end up in federal court.

Dartmouth players voted 13-2 to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 560 in an election supervised by the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the university’s human resources department.

“Today is a big day for our team,” said Dartmouth players Cade Haskins and Romeo Myrthil, two leaders of the organizing effort. “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.”

Haskins told the Associated Press that “I think this is just the start” and that the Dartmouth vote “is going to have a domino effect on other cases across the country, and that could lead to other changes.”

SEIU Local 560 president Chris Peck said he is “looking forward to standing in solidarity” with Dartmouth players “as they begin to negotiate their historic first contract.”

Last month, the NLRB’s regional office ruled that the Dartmouth players are employees of the school with collective bargaining rights. Team members had previously petitioned the NLRB to organize with the SEIU.

Dartmouth officials appealed to the full NLRB.

“For Ivy League students who are varsity athletes, academics are of primary importance, and athletic pursuit is part of the educational experience,” the school said in a statement. “Classifying these students as employees simply because they play basketball is as unprecedented as it is inaccurate. We, therefore, do not believe unionization is appropriate.”

Colleges and universities have been urging U.S. lawmakers to pass legislation prohibiting student-athletes from being classified as employees, asserting that being forced to provide pay and benefits and allowing them to form or join unions threatens their multibillion-dollar monopoly.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association weighed in on the Dartmouth vote:

The association believes change in college sports is long overdue and is pursuing significant reforms. However, there are some issues the NCAA cannot address alone, and the association looks forward to working with Congress to make needed changes in the best interest of all student-athletes.

Labor advocates and progressive politicians cheered the vote, with the AFL-CIO calling it a “huge moment.”

AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler said that “NCAA athletes make billions in profits for their universities and they deserve a seat at the table. This is the start of a new chapter in collegiate athletics.”

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on social media: “Congratulations to the members of the Dartmouth men’s basketball team on voting overwhelmingly to become the first college sports team in America to form a union. It’s time for Dartmouth to respect their constitutional right to organize and bargain for a fair contract now.”

Republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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