NLRB files lawsuit against USC seeking to employ some college athletes

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a lawsuit last week in Los Angeles against USC, the Pac-12 and the NCAA seeking to reclassify college football and basketball players as employees instead of student athletes.

Next in the case is a November 7 hearing, where the NLRB will argue that USC’s media policies violate federal labor laws. The school manual asks athletes to “smile” and “be positive” during interviews and not to post anything that would “embarrass USC, your team or your family” on social media.

A ruling in favor of the NLRB would pave the way for some private school varsity athletes to unionize and collectively bargain for a share of media revenue or expanded health care benefits. Public schools are subject to state law, unlike the NLRB, but they could also be affected if the NLRB judge upholds the joint employer designation. With Democrats currently holding a 3-1 majority on the board (with one GOP seat vacant), reaching a decision can be a years-long process that is often followed by a lengthy process of call.

“The conduct of USC, the Pac-12 Conference and the NCAA, as joint employers, deprives their players of their statutory right to organize and unite to improve their working conditions and game if they want to,” the NLRB general said. Advice Jennifer Abruzzo said in a statement. “Our goal is to ensure that these actors, as workers like others, can fully and freely exercise their rights.”

Abruzzo first made her position on this issue clear in September 2021, when she issued a memo stating that “certain” college athletes are statutory employees who deserve the right to unionize, among other protections. In 2017, the NLRB issued a memo saying top private college football players were employees, but it declined to intervene in a specific case involving Northwestern University and the Trump administration withdrew the memo. late that year.

“The complaint issued by the Region today appears to be driven by a political agenda and is not the right way to help student-athletes succeed,” NCAA spokesperson Tim Buckley said. “Many student-athletes are making real money in today’s world of college sports while earning a college degree worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some within the NLRB would apparently replace this system with one that a young adult could be fired from after a few bad mid-season games, while turning a blind eye to its impact on Title IX and international student-athletes, as so than the instability in college sports that would result from only private school basketball and football student-athletes being employees.

The official NLRB complaint is the latest legal challenge threatening the NCAA since the successful lawsuit of Ed O’Bannon And Shawne Alston considered the organization subject to ordinary antitrust scrutiny. Johnson vs. NCAA, which is currently under review by the Third Circuit, is also seeking employee status for varsity athletes. The concern among fans of non-profit sports like swimming is that their favorite teams could be on the chopping block if athletic department operating costs rise across the country.

“The impact of such a monumental change in the law would affect not only USC football and basketball programs targeted by the NLRB general counsel, but the more than 20 different sports in the Conference that operate. all under the same academic rules and principles,” the Pac-12 said in a statement. Notably, USC is leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten with UCLA in 2024.

The NCAA tried to convince Congress to pass legislation defining college athletes as non-employees, but even with the former Massachusetts governor charlie baker now at the helm of the organization, it seems like an unlikely escape.

“Now that the complaint has finally been filed, the next step in the process is a full hearing, where USC looks forward to presenting the full facts about its athletic programs,” a USC spokesperson said in the statement. a statement. “These facts, along with 75 years of precedent, establish that our student-athletes – including those on our football and basketball teams – are not employees.”

Another trial, House vs. NCAAis seeking NIL backpay and broadcast revenue share totaling over $1 billion.

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