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Dartmouth men's basketball players are employees of the college, labor official decides

Dartmouth's Robert McRae III (23) takes a pass from Jackson Munro (33) as Duke's Jaylen Blakes (2) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. Men's basketball players for Dartmouth are attempting to unionize, filing a petition with the National Labor Relations Board in September. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
Ben McKeown/AP
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FR171414 AP
Dartmouth's Robert McRae III (23) takes a pass from Jackson Munro (33) as Duke's Jaylen Blakes (2) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. Men's basketball players for Dartmouth are attempting to unionize, filing a petition with the National Labor Relations Board in September. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

A National Labor Relations Board regional official has decided that Dartmouth basketball players are employees of the school, clearing the way for an election that would create the first-ever labor union for NCAA athletes.

All 15 members of the Dartmouth men’s basketball team signed a petition in September asking to join Local 560 of the Service Employees International Union, which already represents some other employees at the Ivy League school in Hanover, New Hampshire. Unionizing would allow the players to negotiate not only over salary but working conditions, including practice hours and travel.

The NCAA and universities across the country have been steadfast in insisting that their athletes are students, not employees.

The school can still appeal the regional director’s decision to the national board; that’s what happened when members of the Northwestern football team held a union election in 2014. In case of appeal, the ballots would be impounded pending a ruling.

The Northwestern ballots were destroyed after the NLRB, which only governs private employers, decided that allowing the football players at the only private school in the Big Ten would upset the labor market in the conference. It did not address the question of whether the players were employees. All eight Ivy League schools are private.

There is also a complaint before a different NLRB body in California that claims football and basketball players at Southern California should be deemed employees.

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