A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has decided that Northwestern University grant-in-aid scholarship football players are employees with the right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act. Risa Lieberwitz, professor of labor and employment law at Cornell University’s ILR School, says the board’s decision could influence other private university college teams and even public universities.
“This decision could have a wide-reaching impact on possible unionization by other college athletes.
“The NLRB regional director concluded that the football players receive scholarships as compensation for their athletic services. Scholarships of up to $76,000 per year cover tuition, fees, room, board, and books. The football program generates revenue of tens of millions of dollars per year.
“Public universities are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act. But, state labor boards may find the Northwestern University decision to be persuasive in interpreting state collective bargaining laws covering public employees.
“Northwestern University will likely appeal the regional director’s decision to the five-member National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C.”