The National Labor Relations Board announced that it will not uphold the lower office ruling that Northwestern players are employees of their school, which obviously means they can’t unionize.

The grounds it chose to stake that position are interesting.

Just as the nature of league sports and the NCAA’s oversight renders individual team bargaining problematic, the way that FBS football itself is structured and the nature of the colleges and universities involved strongly suggest that asserting jurisdiction in this case would not  promote stability in labor relations. Despite the similarities between FBS football and professional sports leagues, FBS is also a markedly different type of enterprise. In particular, of the roughly 125 colleges and universities that participate in FBS football, all but 17 are state-run institutions. As a result, the Board cannot assert jurisdiction over the vast majority of FBS teams because they are not operated by “employers” within the meaning of Section 2(2) of the Act.

In other words, the unique nature of college football saved itself here.  And so there is an indirect warning from the Board in the event the sport presents itself with a more unified structure in the future.

Further, we are declining jurisdiction only in this case involving the football players at Northwestern University; we therefore do not address what the Board’s approach might be to a petition for all FBS scholarship football players (or at least those at private colleges and universities).

There is no doubt that this is a big win for the NCAA and schools in the short term.  But in the longer term, there are some fascinating tradeoffs they may face, particularly if Kessler prevails in his litigation.  That’s a subject we’ll perhaps visit at another time, though.  In the meantime, we’ll have to wait and see if Stacey Osburn has any comment.


Filed under Look For The Union Label

6 responses to “Disunion

  1. GaskillDawg

    I read the opinion, and it is not really a victory for the NCAA. The thing the NCAA wanted was for the NLRB to definitively say that the Northwestern football players are not “employees.” The NLRB refused to give the NCAA that ruling. The opinion instead said that it was only considering whether Northwestern football players, alone, having collective bargaining rights when every other team in FBS does not would promote labor stability. The NLRB said that it is not foreclosing a different result if all FBS players petitioned.

    The NLRB may very well be sending a message to the NCAA. The question is whether the NCAA’s 128 members are willing to listen/


  2. Rex Non Potest Peccare… Today Only


  3. Dog in Fla

    Stacey’s unavailable for comment but Remy’s not so he and Emmert organize a Victory Parade


  4. Stacey Osburn

    No comment biatch!!


  5. So the original decision saying the Northwestern players were employees was literally made by one administrator in the NLRB. This not how sea changes of this nature this should ever be made. One petty bureaucrat ,should not be allowed to stir up a honey pot of this nature just because he thinks it would help expand his jurisdiction and authority. We should not be governed by Regional Directors. Changes that have this many unintended consequences should never be left to one man and his opinion because we all know what opinions are like,right?