Monday, August 17, 2015

Northwestern University football players can't unionize

In a unanimous decision, the National Labor Relations Board declined to assert jurisdiction in the case involving Northwestern University football players who receive grant-in-aid scholarships.

The Board did not determine if the players were statutory employees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  Instead, the Board exercised its discretion not to assert jurisdiction and dismissed the representation petition filed by the union.

In the decision, the Board held that asserting jurisdiction would not promote labor stability due to the nature and structure of NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). By statute the Board does not have jurisdiction over state-run colleges and universities, which constitute 108 of the roughly 125 FBS teams.

In addition, every school in the Big Ten, except Northwestern, is a state-run institution.  As the NCAA and conference maintain substantial control over individual teams, the Board held that asserting jurisdiction over a single team would not promote stability in labor relations across the league.

This decision is narrowly focused to apply only to the players in this case and does not preclude reconsideration of this issue in the future.

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