March 27, 2014

In a much awaited decision, the Regional Director for Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") has determined that grant-in-aid scholarship recipients on the Northwestern University football team are more than just students and athletes. He has concluded that they are "employees" under the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA"), with the right to organize and form a union.

This is the first decision of an NLRB Regional Director addressing the question of whether collegiate-level student athletes can be represented by a labor organization under the NLRA. The NLRB has never ruled on this issue. Collegiate sports programs across the country have stood firm in their opinion that student athletes are students, not employees, and that grant, scholarship, or other financial support is student aid, rather than compensation for athletic services. The opinion of the Regional Director from Region 13 has taken the opposite perspective; he has concluded that the aid, which totals on average approximately $61,000 per athlete per year and covers tuition, food, and housing, is compensation, despite the fact that it is not subject to payroll taxes by state or federal taxing authorities.

To read the full Alert, click here.