Are College Athletes Employees of Their Schools?: The Kiplinger Letter

A recent ruling has ramifications for labor relations and the unionization of student athletes.

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To help you understand what is going on in the labor sector our highly experienced Kiplinger Letter team will keep you abreast of the latest developments and forecasts (Get a free issue of The Kiplinger Letter or subscribe). You'll get all the latest news first by subscribing, but we will publish many (but not all) of the forecasts a few days afterward online. Here’s the latest…

Are college athletes employees of their schools? A recent ruling says yes. 

The National Labor Relations Board sided with college players this month in a regional ruling that agreed with the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team. It sets up the potential for the first-ever labor union for National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) athletes as Dartmouth players seek a vote to join the Service Employees International Union, which already represents some employees at the private, Ivy League school in New Hampshire.

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Unionizing would let the players negotiate a salary and working conditions. The case is being closely watched by other colleges and the NCAA, which strongly opposes the unionization of student athletes. If Dartmouth players are successful, it could open the door for other players across the U.S. to unionize. 

The National Labor Relations Board has jurisdiction over only the private sector, but they could force the hand of the NCAA with a final ruling that athletes at private colleges are employees. However, the case is far from decided, as Dartmouth says it will appeal.

This forecast first appeared in The Kiplinger Letter, which has been running since 1923 and is a collection of concise weekly forecasts on business and economic trends, as well as what to expect from Washington, to help you understand what’s coming up to make the most of your investments and your money. Subscribe to The Kiplinger Letter.

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Sean Lengell
Associate Editor, The Kiplinger Letter

Sean Lengell covers Congress and government policy for The Kiplinger Letter. Before joining Kiplinger in January 2017 he served as a congressional reporter for eight years with the Washington Examiner and the Washington Times. He previously covered local news for the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune. A native of northern Illinois who spent much of his youth in St. Petersburg, Fla., he holds a bachelor's degree in English from Marquette University.