In an unprecedented move within college sports, Dartmouth College’s men’s basketball team is attempting to unionize. A decision by a regional National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) official has paved the way for the team’s 15 players to hold a union election on March 5. This could position them as the first unionized college sports team in the United States.
Forward Cade Haskins came up with the idea of unionizing. He works in the campus dining hall, and benefitted from the union drive that successfully negotiated better wages and conditions for student workers. This led Haskins to contemplate the potential benefits of unionization for his team.
Dartmouth players commit over 30 hours a week to their sport, through practices, game travel, and workout sessions. Yet, despite the significant time and physical toll, they receive no financial compensation or additional support for sports-related injuries. If student-0athletes were part of a union, they would receive enhanced health benefits and support.
This initiative has faced several challenges. Dartmouth College contests the players’ employee status, emphasizing the academic priority of its students. However, the NLRB’s ruling in favor of the players highlights that the significant control the college has over the athletes’ commitments aligns more with the characteristics of an employer-employee relationship.
The idea of unionization in college sports has wide implications. Recognizing athletes as employees would require substantial changes, including minimum wage rights and unemployment benefits. As the Dartmouth basketball team approaches its union election, the outcome could set a precedent for college athletes nationwide.