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March Madness or union madness?

The following is an excerpt from our Saturday email, which includes our musings on the latest developments impacting public employees, links to that week’s labor news, and a collection of whimsical reads for your weekend. If you’d like to receive our weekly email, you can use the sign-up form at the bottom of this page. We promise to respect your inbox, and we will never share your email address.

From this UConn fan to you, happy March Madness!  

Even if you’re not a basketball fan, you may have heard about the recent buzz surrounding Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team—they’ve decided to unionize. It’s pretty significant because it’s the first time a group of college athletes has taken this step. But here’s the twist: Dartmouth isn’t exactly rolling out the red carpet for bargaining talks. Why? Well, they argue that since these athletes are students, not employees, they’re not entitled to collective bargaining rights. The issue is likely headed to Federal court. 

Now, why does this matter? Imagine if these student athletes are deemed employees and gain the right to collectively bargain. That could set a major precedent, not just for Dartmouth or the Ivy League, but for colleges across the country. Think about it: if basketball players can bargain for better conditions, what’s stopping football players, swimmers, or even chess club members from doing the same? It could spark a whole new era of how we view college sports and extracurricular activities. 

But it’s not all slam dunks and three-pointers for unions just yet. If this unionization bid succeeds, it could lead to changes in how student athletes are treated, including them in potential benefits like healthcare coverage, retirement plans, or even revenue sharing. However, it could also raise questions about amateurism and the core principles of collegiate sports. And it’s not just private universities like Dartmouth; public institutions might have to rethink their stance on student athlete compensation too. Could the UConn men’s basketball team suddenly be state pension eligible?  

So, while Dartmouth’s men’s basketball team might be leading the charge, the outcome of this case could ripple far beyond Hanover, New Hampshire. It’s a game-changer, quite literally, and all eyes are on how it unfolds.

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Isabel Blank

Isabel Blank is Communications Director at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2021, Isabel worked in media relations at Travelers Insurance and held government affairs and communications roles with Yankee Institute. She has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish, both from the University of Connecticut (Go Huskies!). Isabel loves Crossfit and supporting her local Connecticut breweries.