NLRB Says College Athletes Can Unionize

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that athletes at private colleges can now unionize. The AP calls the ruling “stunning” but considering that President Obama illegally appointed union friendly members to the NLRB it really isn’t surprising at all.

In a stunning ruling that has the potential to revolutionize college athletics, a federal agency said Wednesday that football players at Northwestern University can create the nation’s first college athlete’s union.

The decision by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board means it agrees football players at the Big Ten school qualify as employees under federal law and therefore can legally unionize.

“Based on the entire record in this case, I find that the Employer’s football players who receive scholarships fall squarely within (federal labor law’s) broad definition of ‘employee,” Peter Sung Ohr, the NLRB regional director, said in his 24-page decision.

An employee is generally regarded by law as someone who receives compensation for a service and is under the direct control of managers. Players argued that their scholarships are compensation and coaches are their managers.

The Evanston, Ill-based university argued college athletes, as students, don’t fit in the same category as factory workers, truck drivers and other unionized workers. Immediately after the ruling, the school announced it plans to appeal to labor authorities in Washington, D.C. (Read More)

The ruling opens the door for athletes to receive corporate sponsorships, which can be used to pay union dues.

I wonder how this will work in states like New York where there are no right to work laws. Once a college athletic department is unionized will athletes be required to join the unions and pay dues? What about sports that aren’t lucrative and there will be no chance of obtaining sponsorships?