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U.S. labor board official says college athletes are ’employees’ By Reuters


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: September 25, 2021, College Park, Maryland. Maryland Terrapins’ quarterback TauliaTagovailoa throws from her pocket in the first period against Kent State Golden Flashes. This was at Capital One Field, Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tom

By Daniel Wiessner

(Reuters) – The top lawyer at the agency that enforces U.S. labor laws said on Wednesday that many college athletes are their schools’ employees, effectively inviting players to take steps to unionize.

In a memo, Jennifer Abruzzo, General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board stated that her office will file complaints against colleges for interfering with player organizing or asserting that athletes do not have federal workers’ rights.

Abruzzo was appointed by the U.S. President Joe Biden. Abruzzo said that athletes are school employees since they offer services that produce profits, and the schools have control over their sports activities.

The NLRB’s General Counsel acts as a prosecutor when unfair labor practice cases are brought before the five-member board. The board’s decision that college athletes can join unions is subject to challenge in court.

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It comes amid an overall shift in the legal environment for college sport, which is generating millions of dollars for schools.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned limits placed on athletes’ non-cash compensation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). These include scholarships for graduate schools and paid internships.

Abruzzo stated in the memo that the court’s decision showed that college sports were a profitable enterprise and that the shift towards paying athletes only supported Abruzzo’s view that schools are their employer.

Abruzzo reinstated an Obama-era memo that stated college athletes were school employees. An appointee under former President Donald Trump had withdrawn the memo later in that year.

A request from Northwestern University’s football players to become members of a union was rejected by the NLRB (NASDAQ:) University in Chicago. While the board denied that it had jurisdiction in the matter, the board did not address the critical question about whether or not the players were Northwestern employees.

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