Labor board ruling could shake up college sports

published in The Journal Record | March 28, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board got the attention of college sports fans across the nation when it issued a decision stating that Northwestern University’s football players were the equivalent of paid employees of the university and, as such, were entitled to pursue unionization.

Charlie Plumb, a labor and employment attorney who was interviewed on the topic by The Wall Street Journal, was also asked to comment on the agency’s decision by The Journal Record. His conclusion: The NLRB’s decision was self-serving and did not closely follow the original intent of unionization. Student athletes are simply not employees.

Plumb was quoted in the article as saying that NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr inverted a previous ruling in which Brown University graduate assistants applied for similar recognition. In that 2004 decision, the NLRB found that the assistants received as much academic credit for their work as employment and, therefore, were not “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act. Plumb said Ohr’s justification for football players was weak in light of the previous ruling.