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Full-Text of Today’s NLRB Decision Permitting Athletes at Northwestern University to Unionize

Northwestern University has already indicated that it plans to appeal this decision, and it may very well be overturned on appeal. But the arguments presented by the NLRB regional director who has communicated the decision are very thought-provoking.

I have removed the footnotes because I think that the decision is more than long enough without them. The full text of the decision, including the footnotes is available at: file:///C:/Users/Michael/Downloads/E-Mail/Decision%20and%20Direction%20of%20Election.pdf

I think that it is ironic that, of all of the Big Ten schools, Northwestern should be the institution at which student athletes should have sought to make this point, since the public perception would seem to be that it is probably the Big Ten university least associated with the its athletic history. But perhaps that–as well as its location in a state with a strong union tradition–make it the perfect place for such a petition to have been filed.

_________________________

UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT

BEFORE THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD REGION 13

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

Employer 

and                                                                           

COLLEGE ATHLETES PLAYERS ASSOCIATION (CAPA)

Petitioner

Case 13-RC-121359

 

DECISION AND DIRECTION OF ELECTION

Upon a petition duly filed under Section 9(c) of the National Labor Relations Act, as amended (“the Act”), a hearing was held before a hearing officer of the National Labor Relations Board (“the Board”). Pursuant to the provisions of Section 3(b) of the Act, the Board has delegated to the undersigned its authority in this proceeding.

I. ISSUES

The Petitioner contends that football players (“players”) receiving grant-in-aid scholarships (“scholarship”) from the Employer are “employees” within the meaning of the Act, and therefore are entitled to choose whether or not to be represented for the purposes of collective-bargaining. The Employer, on the other hand, asserts that its football players receiving grant-in-aid scholarships are not “employees” under the Act. It further asserts that these players are more akin to graduate students in Brown University, 342 NLRB 483 (2004), whom the Board found not to be “employees” under the Act.

In the alternative, the Employer contends that its players are temporary employees who are not eligible for collective bargaining.

Finally, the Employer contends that the petitioned-for-unit is arbitrary and not appropriate for bargaining.

II. DECISION

For the reasons discussed in detail below, I find that players receiving scholarships from the Employer are “employees” under Section 2(3) of the Act. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that an election be conducted under the direction of the Regional Director for Region 13 in the following appropriate bargaining unit:

Eligible to vote are all football players receiving football grant-in-aid scholarship and not having exhausted their playing eligibility employed by the Employer located at 1501 Central Street, Evanston, Illinois, but excluding office clerical employees and guards, professional employees and supervisors as defined in the Act.

III. STATEMENT OF FACTS

A. Background

The Employer is a private, non-profit, non-sectarian, coeducational teaching university chartered by the State of Illinois, with three campuses, including one located in Evanston, Illinois. It currently has an undergraduate enrollment of about 8,400 students. The academic calendar year for these students is broken down into four quarters: Fall, Winter, Spring, and an optional Summer Session. The schedule for the current academic calendar year shows that classes began on September 24, 2013 and conclude on June 13, 2014.

The Employer maintains an intercollegiate athletic program and is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The NCAA is responsible for formulating and enforcing rules governing intercollegiate sports for participating colleges. The Employer is also a member of the Big Ten Conference and its students compete against the other 11 member schools (as well as non-conference opponents) in various sports. There are currently 19 varsity sports, which the Employer’s students can participate in at the Division I level, including 8 varsity sports for men and 11 varsity sports for women. In total, there are about 500 students who compete in one of these sports each year for the Employer.

B. The Employer’s Football Staff and Grant-in-Aid Scholarship Players

As part of its athletic program, the Employer has a varsity football team that competes in games against other universities. The team is considered a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Division I program. Since 2006, the head football coach has been Patrick Fitzgerald, Jr., and he has been successful in taking his team to five bowl games. On his football staff, there is a Director of Football Operations, Director of Player Personnel, Director of Player Development, nine full-time assistant coaches, and four graduate assistant coaches who assist him with his various duties. There are also five full-time strength coaches, two full-time video staff employees, two administrative assistants, and various interns who report to him. In turn, Head Coach Fitzgerald reports to Athletic Director James J. Phillips and President Dr. Morton Shapiro.

The Employer’s football team is comprised of about 112 players of which there are 85 players who receive football grant-in-aid scholarships that pay for their tuition, fees, room, board, and books.The players on a scholarship typically receive grant-in-aid totaling $61,000 each academic year.The grant-in-aid for the players’ tuition, fees and books is not provided directly to them in the form of a stipend as is sometimes done with room and board. Because the Employer’s football team has a rule requiring its players to live on campus during their first two years, these players live in a dorm room and are provided a meal card, which allows them to buy food at the school cafeteria. In contrast, the players who are upperclassmen can elect to live off campus, and scholarship players are provided a monthly stipend totaling between $1,200 and $1,600 to cover their living expenses. Under current NCAA regulations, the Employer is prohibited from offering its players additional compensation for playing football at its institution with one exception. The Employer is permitted to provide its players with additional funds out of a “Student Assistance Fund” to cover certain expenses such as health insurance, dress clothes required to be worn by the team while traveling to games, the cost of traveling home for a family member’s funeral, and fees for graduate school admittance tests and tutoring.The players do not have FICA taxes withheld from the scholarship monies they receive. Nor do they receive a W-2 tax form from the Employer.

For a number of years, the NCAA rules provided that players could only receive one-year scholarships that were renewable each year at the discretion of the head coach. But effective the 2012-2013 academic year, the NCAA changed its rule to permit universities to offer four-year scholarships to players. The Employer immediately thereafter began to award its recruits four­ year scholarships with an option for a fifth year (typically, in the case of a player who “redshirts” their freshmen year). When Head Coach Fitzgerald makes a scholarship offer to a recruit, he provides the individual both a National Letter of Intent and a four-year scholarship offer that is referred to as a “tender”. Both documents must be signed by the recruit and the “tender” describes the terms and conditions of the offer. More specifically, it explains to the recruit that, under NCAA’s rules, the scholarship can be reduced or canceled during the term of the award if the player: (1) renders himself ineligible from intercollegiate competition; (2) engages in serious misconduct warranting substantial disciplinary action; (3) engages in conduct resulting in criminal charges; (4) abuses team rules as determined by the coach or athletic administration; (5) voluntarily withdraws from the sport at any time for any reason; (6) accepts compensation for participating in an athletic contest in his sport; or (7) agrees to be represented by an agent. The “tender” further explains to the recruit that the scholarship cannot be reduced during the period of the award on the basis of his athletic ability or an injury.By July 1 of each year, the Employer has to inform its players, in writing, if their scholarships will not be renewed. However, the “tender” provides the players the right to appeal this decision.

In cases where Coach Fitzgerald believes that a player may have engaged in conduct that could result in the cancelation of his scholarship, he will speak to individuals within the athletic department. Athletic Director Phillips, after considering any recommendation offered by Fitzgerald, will then determine whether the conduct warrants cancellation of the scholarship. If the player appeals this decision, the player will meet with the Employer’s Director of Financial Aid, the Faculty Representative, and a Representative from the Vice President of Student Affairs. It is undisputed that within the past five years, only one player has had his scholarship canceled for engaging in misconduct (shooting a BB gun in a dormitory) and another player had his scholarship canceled for violating the alcohol and drug policy a second time. In both cases, the athletic director asked for, and followed, Fitzgerald’s recommendation to cancel the scholarships.

C. The Employer’s Football Players are Subject to Special Rules

As has already been alluded to, the Employer’s players (both scholarship players and walk-ons) are subject to certain team and athletic department rules set forth, inter alia, in the Team Handbook that is applicable solely to the Employer’s players and Northwestern’s Athletic Department Handbook. Northwestern’s regular student population is not subject to these rules and policies. Specifically, freshmen and sophomore year players receiving scholarships are required to live in on-campus dormitories. Only upperclassmen players are permitted to live off campus and even then they are required to submit their lease to Fitzgerald for his approval before they can enter into it. If players want to obtain outside employment, they must likewise first obtain permission from the athletic department. This is so that the Employer can monitor whether the player is receiving any sort of additional compensation or benefit because of their athletic ability or reputation.Similarly, players are required to disclose to their coaches detailed information pertaining to the vehicle that they drive. The players must also abide by a social media policy, which restricts what they can post on the internet, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. In fact, the players are prohibited from denying a coach’s “friend” request and the former’s postings are monitored. The Employer prohibits players from giving media interviews unless they are directed to participate in interviews that are arranged by the Athletic Department. Players are prohibited from swearing in public, and if a player “embarrasses” the team, he can be suspended for one game. A second offense of this nature can result in a suspension up to one year. Players who transfer to another school to play football must sit out a year before they can compete for the new school. Players are prohibited from profiting off their image or reputation, including the selling of merchandise and autographs. Players are also required to sign a release permitting the Employer and the Big Ten Conference to utilize their name, likeness and image for any purpose.The players are subject to strict drug and alcohol policies and must sign a release making themselves subject to drug testing by the Employer, Big Ten Conference, and NCAA. The players are subject to anti-hazing and anti-gambling policies as well.

During the regular season, the players are required to wear a suit to home games and team issued travel sweats when traveling to an away football game. They are also required to remain within a six-hour radius of campus prior to football games. If players are late to practice, they have to attend one hour of study hall on consecutive days for each minute they were tardy. Players may also be required to run laps for violating less egregious team rules. Even the players’ academic lives are controlled as evidenced by the fact that they are required to attend study hall if they fail to maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) in their classes. And irrespective of their GPA, all freshmen players must attend six hours of study hall each week. 

D. Football Players’ Time Commitment to Their Sport

The first week in August, the scholarship and walk-on players begin their football season with a month-long training camp, which is considered the most demanding part of the season. In training camp (and the remainder of the calendar year), the coaching staff prepares and provides the players with daily itineraries that detail which football-related activities they are required to attend and participate in. The itineraries likewise delineate when the players are to eat their meals and receive any necessary medical treatment. For example, the daily itinerary for the first day of training camp in 2012 shows that the athletic training room was open from 6:30 a.m. to a.m. so the players could receive medical treatment and rehabilitate any lingering injuries. Because of the physical nature of football, many players were in the training room during these hours. At the same time, the players had breakfast made available to them at the N Club. From a.m. to 8:30 a.m., any players who missed a summer workout (discussed below) or who were otherwise deemed unfit by the coaches were required to complete a fitness test. The players were then separated by position and required to attend position meetings from 8:30 am. to 11:00 a.m. so that they could begin to install their plays and work on basic football fundamentals. The players were also required to watch film of their prior practices at this time. Following these meetings, the players had a walk-thru from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at which time they scripted and ran football plays. The players then had a one-hour lunch during which time they could go to the athletic training room, if they needed medical treatment. From 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., the players had additional meetings that they were required to attend. Afterwards, at 4:00 p.m., they practiced until team dinner, which was held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the N Club. The team then had additional position and team meetings for a couple of more hours. At 10:30 p.m., the players were expected to be in bed (“lights out”) since they had a full day of football activities and meetings throughout each day of training camp. After about a week of training camp on campus, the Employer’s football team made their annual trek to Kenosha, Wisconsin for the remainder of their training camp where the players continued to devote 50 to 60 hours per week on football related activities.

After training camp, the Employer’s football team starts its regular season which consists of 12 games played against other colleges, usually played on Saturdays, between the beginning of September and the end of November. During this time, the players devote 40 to 50 hours per week to football-related activities, including travel to and from their scheduled games.During each Monday of the practice week, injured players must report to the athletic training room to receive medical treatment starting at about 6:15 a.m. Afterwards, the football coaches require the players to attend mandatory meetings so that they can begin to install the game plan for their upcoming opponent. However, the only physical activity the coaches expect the players to engage in during this day is weightlifting since they are still recovering from their previous game. The next several days of the week (Tuesday through Thursday), injured players must report to the athletic training room before practice to continue to receive medical treatment. The coaches require all the players to attend mandatory practices and participate in various football-related activities in pads and helmets from about 7:50 a.m. until 11:50 a.m.In addition, the players must attend various team and position meetings during this time period. Upon completion of these practices and meetings, the scholarship players attend a mandatory “training table” at the N Club where they receive food to assist them in their recovery. Attendance is taken at these meals and food is only provided to scholarship players and those walk-ons who choose to pay for it out of their own pocket.

Because NCAA rules limit the players’ CARA hours to four per day, the coaches are not permitted to compel the players to practice again later in the day. The players, however, regularly hold 7-on-7 drills (which involve throwing the football without the participation of the team’s offensive and defensive linemen) outside the presence of their coaches. To avoid violating the NCAA’s CARA limitations, these drills are scheduled by the quarterback and held in the football team’s indoor facility in the evening. A student athletic trainer is also present for these drills to provide medical assistance, if necessary. In the same way, around 8:00 p.m., the players will go to their coaches’ offices to watch film on their own for up to a couple of hours.

During the regular competition season, the players’ schedule is different on Friday than other days of the week because it is typically a travel day. For home games, the team will initially meet at 3:00 p.m. and have a series of meetings, walk-thrus and film sessions until about  6:00 p.m. The team will then take a bus to a local hotel where the players will be required to have a team dinner and stay overnight. In the evening, the players have the option of attending chapel and then watching a movie. At the conclusion of the movie, the players have a team breakdown meeting at 9:00 p.m. before going to bed.

About half of the games require the players to travel to another university, either by bus or airplane. In the case of an away game against the University of Michigan football team on November 9, 2012,the majority of players were required to report to the N Club by 8:20 a.m. for breakfast. At 8:45 a.m., the offensive and defensive coaches directed a walk-thru for their respective squads. The team then boarded their buses at 10:00 a.m. and traveled about five hours to Ann Arbor, Michigan.At 4:30 p.m. (EST), after arriving at Michigan’s campus, the players did a stadium walk-thru and then had position meetings from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The coaches thereafter had the team follow a similar schedule as the home games with a team dinner, optional chapel, and a team movie. The players were once again expected to be in bed by 10:30 p.m.

On Saturday, the day of the Michigan game, the players received a wake-up call at 7:30 a.m. and were required to meet for breakfast in a coat and tie by no later than 8:05 a.m. The team then had 20 minutes of meetings before boarding a bus and departing for the stadium at 8:45 a.m. Upon arriving at the stadium, the players changed into their workout clothes and stretched for a period of time. They afterwards headed to the training room to get taped up, receive any medical treatment, and put on their football gear. About 65 minutes before kickoff, the players took the field and did additional stretches and otherwise warmed-up for the game. At noon, the game kicked off and Head Coach Fitzgerald, in consultation with his assistant coaches, was responsible for determining the starting lineup and which substitutions would be made during the course of the game. While most games normally last about three hours, this one lasted about four hours since it went into overtime. Following the game, the coaches met with the players, and some of those individuals were made available to the media for post-game interviews by the Employer’s athletic department staff. Other players had to receive medical treatment and eventually everyone on the roster changed back into their travel clothes before getting on the bus for the five hour drive back to the Evanston campus. At around 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., the players arrived at the campus.

Although no mandatory practices are scheduled on Sunday following that week’s football game, the players are required to report to the team’s athletic trainers for a mandatory injury check. Those players who sustained injuries in the game will receive medical treatment at the football facility.

In the years that the team qualifies for a Bowl game, the season will be extended another month such that the players are practicing during the month of December in preparation for their Bowl game – which is usually played in early January. The coaches expect the players to devote the same amount of hours on their football duties during the postseason (40 to 50 hours per week), with one key difference being that the players are no longer taking classes since the academic quarter ends in mid-December.While the players are allowed to leave campus for several days before Christmas, they must report back by Christmas morning. To ensure that the players abide by this schedule, they are required to give their flight itinerary to their position coaches before leaving campus.

Following the Bowl game, there is a two-week discretionary period where the players have the option to go into the weight room to workout.While the weight room is next to the football coaches’ offices, NCAA rules prohibit coaches from conducting the players’ workouts during this discretionary period. While the Employer’s strength and conditioning coaches are allowed to monitor these workouts, various team leaders, including those players on the team leadership council,attempt to ensure that attendance is high at these optional workouts during this and the eight other discretionary weeks throughout the year.

In mid-January, the players begin a one-month period of winter workouts during, which they spend about one hour running and doing agility drills and another hour lifting weights four or five days per week. These mandatory workouts are conducted by the football team’s strength and conditioning coaches as they critique each individual player’s attitude and performance. During this time the players also receive medical treatment for any ailments or injuries. This treatment could take the form of something as simple as getting into a cold tub or having their ankles taped. As is done in the regular season, the scholarship players are required to attend mandatory “training table” after their workouts. In total, the players devote about 12 to 15 hours per week on these workouts.

In mid-February, the players have a one-week period referred to as “Winning Edge” which serves as a transition to Spring football. During this week, the football coaches separate the players into smaller groups and require them to compete with one another in various types of demanding competitions to test their levels of conditioning. The coaches also have the players lift weights in between these scheduled competitions. Overall, the players can expect to spend 15 to 20 hours on this week’s mandatory activities.

From the conclusion of the “Winning Edge” until about mid-April, the players participate in Spring football which requires them to devote about 20 to 25 hours per week. In this period, the players wear their pads and helmets and resume practicing football skills. The football coaches also require the players to attend scheduled meetings so they can reinstall their offense and defense for the upcoming season. The players are similarly required to watch film of each day’s practice to assist in their development while in these meetings. In addition, the coaches will designate times when the players must lift weights and improve their conditioning. This important two-month period serves as an opportunity for the players to impress their coaches and move up on the depth charts in the various positions they are competing for. At the conclusion of Spring football, the team holds its annual Spring game which is basically a scrimmage between the current eligible players.

Following the conclusion of Spring football, the players have a discretionary week in which there is no expectation that they remain on campus and train. The players then return to campus and begin Spring workouts, which are conducted by the strength and conditioning coaches. These mandatory workouts are similar to those performed in the winter and involve one hour of running and another hour of weightlifting. Besides one discretionary week in the first week in May, the workouts continue until about the beginning of June when the academic year ends.

At the end of the academic year, the players will return to their respective homes for a couple of weeks (which are discretionary weeks) before being required to report back to campus for Summer workouts, which are once again conducted by the strength and conditioning coaches. The team leaders will also use this time to teach the team’s offense and defense to incoming freshmen. In fact, the players participate in 7-on-7 drills from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., two times per week and watch film as part of their preparation for the upcoming season. In total, both the upperclassmen and incoming freshmen devote 20 to 25 hours per week on summer workouts before the start of training camp.

E. The Recruitment and Academic Life of the Employer’s Grant-in-Aid Scholarship Players

The record makes clear that the Employer’s scholarship players are identified and recruited in the first instance because of their football prowess and not because of their academic achievement in high school. Only after the Employer’s football program becomes interested in a high school player based on the potential benefit he might add to the Employer’s football program does the potential candidate get vetted through the Employer’s recruiting and admissions process.

Regarding the Employer’s recruitment process, after a potential player comes to the attention of the Employer’s football program, Coach Fitzgerald becomes involved. One of Fitzgerald’s busiest recruiting periods is in September when he is permitted to evaluate recruits at their respective high schools and attend their football games to observe their football ability first hand. In December and January, he is also permitted to have one in-home visit with each recruit. These home visits provide him the opportunity to explain to the recruit and their parents what it means to be a student-athlete at the Employer. More specifically, Fitzgerald will explain how they will have the opportunity to take certain classes, receive academic and social support, and have certain responsibilities as players. Fitzgerald’s assistant coaches are likewise involved in recruiting and can visit recruits at their high schools in April and May. The coaches are also permitted to have six in-home visits with each recruit in December and January. As part of this initial process, after the football staff identifies candidates they are interested in, information regarding a potential recruit’s high school transcript, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation and senior class schedule are presented to the Employer’s Admission Office to evaluate potential recruits for pre-admission to the University.

During the recruiting process, the Employer’s football coaches are not permitted to have direct contact with the Admissions Office so that Christopher Watson, the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, does not feel pressured to pre-approve a recruit for admission. Head Coach Fitzgerald must instead speak to Janna Blais, who is the Deputy Director of Athletics for Student-Athlete Welfare. She reviews the recruit’s high school transcript, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and senior year class schedule before making an initial determination as to whether he can be academically successful. If Blais believes the recruit meets this standard, she will speak to and obtain a final decision from Watson concerning that recruit.If the recruit is pre-approved for admission, he completes the formal admissions application with the understanding that he will be admitted as long as his academic record is maintained. However, some recruits are not deemed admissible such that the coaches will have to cease recruiting that individual.

After being pre-approved for admission, recruits selected to receive an offer of scholarship are informed of their pre-admission via letter by Coach Fitzgerald notifying the potential players: “CONGRATULATIONS, the Northwestern Football Staff and I would like to offer you a full scholarship . . . You possess the talent and embody the characteristics and values necessary to succeed at Northwestern University as a student-athlete on our football team.” Subsequently, the Employer extends formal tender offers to recruits which must formally accept and execute. The offers specifically set forth the terms and conditions of the Athletic Tender Agreement governing the grant of the scholarship. Moreover, the offers provide players with detailed information concerning the duration and conditions under which their scholarship will be continued and includes the explicit admonition that the “tender may be immediately reduced or cancelled during the term of this award per NCAA Bylaw 15.3.4.2” if the player renders himself ineligible for intercollegiate competition; and/or voluntarily withdraws from a sport at any time for any reason.

Further, to be eligible to play on the football team, the players must be: (1) enrolled as full-time students; (2) making adequate progress towards obtaining their degree; and (3) maintain a minimum GPA. For players entering their second year of school, they must pass 36 quarter hours and have a 1.8 GPA. For players entering their third year of school, they must have 40% of their degree applicable units completed and a 1.9 GPA. For players entering their fourth year of school, they must have 60% of their degree applicable units completed and a 2.0 GPA. For players entering their fifth year of school, they must have 80% of their degree applicable units completed and a 2.0 GPA. For this reason, players normally take three to four courses during the Fall, Winter, and Spring Quarters.The players spend about 20 hours per week attending classes each week. The players also have to spend time completing their homework and preparing for exams. Significantly, the players do not receive any academic credit for their playing football and none of their coaches are members of the academic faculty.

According to senior quarterback Kain Colter, following a successful high school football career, the Employer admitted him due to his football skills as his academic record was “decent.” He also testified that he based his decision to attend Northwestern on football considerations (i.e. they were going to let him play quarterback). But he still had aspirations of going to medical school and attempted to take a required chemistry class in his sophomore year. At that time, Colter testified that his coaches and advisors discouraged him from taking the class because it conflicted with morning football practices. Colter consequently had to take this class in the Summer session, which caused him to fall behind his classmates who were pursuing the same pre-med major. Ultimately he decided to switch his major to psychology which he believed to be less demanding.

Colter further testified that those players receiving scholarships were not permitted to miss football practice during the regular season if they had a class conflict. On the other hand, walk-ons were permitted to leave practice a little early in order to make it to class.This continued in the Spring with scholarship players being told by their coaches and academic/athletic advisors that they could not take any classes that started before 11:00 a.m. as they would conflict with practice. Even during the Summer session, players were generally only permitted to enroll in classes that were 6 weeks long since the classes that were 8 weeks long would conflict with the start of training camp.

In contrast, Blais and Fitzgerald testified that, if a player had to take a class required for their degree that conflicted with practice, Cody Cejeda (Director of Football Operations) would pull them out of practice about 30 minutes early and provide them a ride to class along with a to-go meal.Fitzgerald also testified that he never told any player that they could not leave practice early because of a class conflict. In addition, if a large number of players had the same class conflict, Fitzgerald testified that he would sometimes move the practice time up to accommodate the class. He cited one Friday during a bye week when he moved up practice for this very reason. Scholarship player Ward corroborated this testimony by citing an example where he and other players had an early class during Spring practice in 2011 so practice was moved up to avoid the conflict.

The Employer’s Student-Athlete Handbook states that players’ academics must take precedence over athletics. For this reason, the Employer attempts to assist the players with their academics by having: (1) study tables; (2) tutor programs; (3) class attendance policies; (4) travel policies which restrict players from being off campus 48 hours prior to finals; and (5) a policy prohibiting players from missing more than five classes in a quarter due to games. In situations where a player has a game that conflicts with a test or quiz, the player will talk to the professor about the possibility of taking it at some other time. If the professor refuses, the Associate Athletic Director for Academics and Student Development will then speak to the professor and inquire if the test or quiz can be taken at the institution where the game is being held. Generally, the professors are willing to make some type of accommodation for the player. On one occasion, however, during the 2013 regular season, a professor refused to that, which resulted in the Employer holding back one bus so that seven players could take a quiz and then travel to the football game against the University of Iowa.On another occasion last year, Fitzgerald also attempted to accommodate a scholarship player’s academic work by permitting him to miss a week of practice and the game against the University of Nebraska. However, no other examples were provided of scholarship players being permitted to miss entire practices and/or games to attend to their studies.

In addition, the Employer’s athletic department has student development programs which are referred to as NU P.R.I.D.E. These programs are meant to help the students “find personal success through service to the campus and their community while enhancing their leadership skills, celebrating diversity, and promoting student-athlete welfare through meaningful programming.”  More specifically, they consist of: (1) Student-Athlete Advisory Committee; (2) P.U.R.P.L.E. Peer Mentor program; (3) Freshmen Year Experiences (F.Y.E.) program; (4) Engage; (5) NU P.R.I.D.E. Program Speaker Series; and (6) P.R.I.D.E. challenge. There is likewise a mandatory four-year NU For Life Program which is designed to assist student-athletes with their professional development so they are able to excel in their chosen field upon completion of their degree.But the players do not receive academic credit for participating in these programs.

It should be noted that the players have a cumulative grade point average of 3.024 and a 97% graduation rate. The players likewise have an Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 996 out of 1000.T he players’ graduation rate and their APR both rank first in the country among football teams. In addition, the players have about 20 different declared majors, with some of them going on to medical school, law school, and careers in the engineering field after receiving their undergraduate degree.

F. The Revenues and Expenses Generated by the Employer’s Football Program

The Employer’s football team generates revenue in various ways including: (1) ticket sales; (2) television broadcast contracts with various networks; and (3) the sale of football team merchandise. The Employer reported to the Department of Education that its football team generated total revenues of $235 million and incurred total expenses of $159 million between 2003 and 2012.For the 2012-2013 academic year, the Employer reported that its football program generated $30.1 million in revenue and $21.7 million in expenses. However, the latter figure does not include costs to maintain the stadium which total between $250,000 and $500,000 per calendar year. In addition, the profit realized from the football team’s annual revenue is utilized to subsidize the Employer’s non-revenue generating sports (i.e. all the other varsity sports with the exception of men’s basketball). This, in turn, assists the Employer in ensuring that it offers a proportionate number of men’s and women’s varsity sports in compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

IV. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

A. The Burden Of Proof

A party seeking to exclude an otherwise eligible employee from the coverage of the Act bears the burden of establishing a justification for the exclusion.Accordingly, it was the Employer’s burden to justify denying its scholarship football players employee status. I find that the Employer failed to carry its burden.

B. The Applicable Legal Standard

Section 2(3) of the Act provides in relevant part that the “term ‘employee’ shall include any employee . ” The U.S. Supreme Court has held that in applying this broad definition of “employee” it is necessary to consider the common law definition of “employee.”  NLRB v. Town & Country Electric, 516 U.S. 85, 94 (1995). Under the common law definition, an employee is a person who performs services for another under a contract of hire, subject to the other’s control or right of control, and in return for payment. Brown University, 342 NLRB 483, 490, fn. 27 (2004) (citing NLRB v. Town & Country Electric, 516 U.S. at 94). See also RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF AGENCY § 2(2) (1958). As a result, the Board has subsequently applied the common law test to determine that individuals are indeed statutory employees. See e.g., Seattle Opera v. NLRB, 292 F.3d 757, 761-62 (D.C. Cir. 2002), enfg. 331 NLRB 1072 (2000) (holding that opera’s auxiliary choristers are statutory employees).

As the record demonstrates, players receiving scholarships to perform football-related services for the Employer under a contract for hire in return for compensation are subject to the Employer’s control and are therefore employees within the meaning of the Act.

1. Grant-in-Aid Scholarship Football Players Perform Services for the Benefit of the Employer for Which They Receive Compensation

Clearly, the Employer’s players perform valuable services for their Employer. Monetarily, the Employer’s football program generated revenues of approximately $235 million during the nine year period 2003 – 2012 through its participation in the NCAA Division I and Big Ten Conference that were generated through ticket sales, television contracts, merchandise sales and licensing agreements. The Employer was able to utilize this economic benefit provided by the services of its football team in any manner it chose. Less quantifiable but also of great benefit to the Employer is the immeasurable positive impact to Northwestern’s reputation a winning football team may have on alumni giving and increase in number of applicants for enrollment at the University.

Understandably, the goal of the football program is to field the most competitive team possible. To further this end, players on scholarship are initially sought out, recruited and ultimately granted scholarships because of their athletic prowess on the football field. Thus, it is clear that the scholarships the players receive is compensation for the athletic services they perform for the Employer throughout the calendar year, but especially during the regular season and postseason. That the scholarships are a transfer of economic value is evident from the fact that the Employer pays for the players’ tuition, fees, room, board, and books for up to five years. Indeed, the monetary value of these scholarships totals as much as $76,000 per calendar year and results in each player receiving total compensation in excess of one quarter of a million dollars throughout the four or five years they perform football duties for the Employer. While it is true that the players do not receive a paycheck in the traditional sense, they nevertheless receive a substantial economic benefit for playing football. And those players who elect to live off campus receive part of their scholarship in the form of a monthly stipend well over $1,000 that can be used to pay their living expenses. The fact that the Employer does not treat these scholarships or stipends as taxable income is not dispositive of whether it is compensation. See Seattle Opera v. NLRB, 292 F.3d at 764, fn. 8.

Equally important, the type of compensation that is provided to the players is set forth in a “tender” that they are required to sign before the beginning of each period of the scholarship. This “tender” serves as an employment contract and also gives the players detailed information concerning the duration and conditions under which the compensation will be provided to them. Because NCAA rules do not permit the players to receive any additional compensation or otherwise profit from their athletic ability and/or reputation, the scholarship players are truly dependent on their scholarships to pay for basic necessities, including food and shelter. Another consequence of this rule is that all of the players generally receive the same compensation for their services. In other words, the team’s best scholarship player is paid as much as any other member of the Employer’s football team receiving a scholarship. However, this undeniable fact does not mean that the compensation provided to either player is not a significant transfer of economic value to them. This is especially true given the nature of football and the foreseeable injuries that will occur during the season which can result in backup players assuming starting roles.

In addition, it is clear that the scholarships that players receive are in exchange for the athletic services being performed. Unlike other universities, the Employer, a couple of years ago, decided to move from one-year renewable scholarships to four-year scholarships. This certainly might make the players feel less pressure to perform on the field so as to avoid having their scholarship possibly not renewed for another year.But the fact remains that the Head Coach of the football team, in consultation with the athletic department, can immediately reduce or cancel the players’ scholarship for a variety of reasons. Indeed, the scholarship is clearly tied to the player’s performance of athletic services as evidenced by the fact that scholarships can be immediately canceled if the player voluntarily withdraws from the team or abuses team rules. Although only two players have had the misfortune of losing their scholarships during the past five years, the threat nevertheless hangs over the entire team and provides a powerful incentive for them to attend practices and games, as well as abide by all the rules they are subject to.

2. Grant-in-Aid Scholarship Football Players are Subject to the Employer’s Control in the Performance of Their Duties as Football Players

In the instant case, the record establishes that the players who receive scholarships are under strict and exacting control by their Employer throughout the entire year. Commencing with training camp which begins approximately six weeks before the start of the academic year, the coaches exercise a great deal of control over the players. This is evidenced by the fact that the coaches prepare and provide daily itineraries to the players which set forth, hour by hour, what football related activities the players are to engage in from as early as 5:45 a.m. until 10:30 p.m., when they are expected to be in bed.Not surprisingly, the players spend 50 to 60 hours per week engaging in football-related activities during training camp. In addition, the location, duration, and manner in which the players carry out their football duties are all within the control of the football coaches.

When the regular football season begins, the players do not commence classes for another few weeks so they are still able to devote 40 to 50 hours per week on football related activities. Apart from their practices, meetings, film sessions, and workouts, the players must now also compete in football games against other colleges on Saturdays. These games are clearly a large time commitment for the players regardless of whether it is a home or an away game. In fact, if the team is playing an away game, it is not unusual for the players to have to spend 25 hours over a two day period traveling to and from the game, attending practices and meetings, and competing in the game. The team’s handbook also makes it clear that the players are “traveling for one reason: to WIN a football game.” And of course, the coaches have control over where the team will spend the night before the game (which is done for both home and away games), the travel itinerary which spells out in detail what will occur throughout the trip, the players’ dress attire while in travel status, and which players will play in the game and to what extent. While the NCAA limits CARA hours to 20 per week once the academic year begins, the evidence establishes that the players continue to devote 40 to 50 hours per week to their football duties all the way through to the end of the season, which could last until early January.

The football coaches are able to maintain control over the players by monitoring their adherence to NCAA and team rules and disciplining them for any violations that occur. If a player arrives late to practice, they must attend one hour of study hall on consecutive days for each minute they were tardy. The players must also run laps for violating minor team rules. And in instances where a player repeatedly misses practices and/or games, he may be deemed to have voluntarily withdrawn from the team and will lose his scholarship. In the same way, a player who violates a more egregious rule stands to lose his scholarship or be suspended from participating in games.

In addition, the coaches have control over nearly every aspect of the players’ private lives by virtue of the fact that there are many rules that they must follow under threat of discipline and/or the loss of a scholarship. The players have restrictions placed on them and/or have to obtain permission from the coaches before they can: (1) make their living arrangements; (2) apply for outside employment;(3) drive personal vehicles; (4) travel off campus; (5) post items on the Internet; (6) speak to the media; (7) use alcohol and drugs; and (8) engage in gambling. The fact that some of these rules are put in place to protect the players and the Employer from running afoul of NCAA rules does not detract from the amount of control the coaches exert over the players’ daily lives.

While the football coaches, and the Employer as a whole, appear to value the players’ academic education, it is clear that the players are controlled to such a degree that it does impact their academic pursuits to a certain extent. This appears to be especially true for the scholarships players as they are sometimes unable to take courses in a certain academic quarters due to conflicts with scheduled practices. The players must also sometimes miss classes due to conflicts with travel to football games, notwithstanding the Employer’s laudable efforts to minimize this from occurring. To try to ensure that its players succeed academically, the Employer requires freshmen players (and sometimes upperclassmen) to attend study hall six hours per week and all the players have tutoring and advisory programs that are not available to regular students. Players are likewise required to participate in a four-year NU For Life Program which is meant to further their professional development once they graduate. However, these noble efforts by the Employer, in some ways only further highlight how pervasively the players’ lives are controlled when they accept a football scholarship. The special assistance that the Employer must provide to the players so that they can succeed academically (or at least, maintain the required minimum grade point average and make adequate progress towards obtaining their degrees) likewise shows the extraordinary time demands placed on the players by their athletic duties.

3. The Employer’s Grant-in-Aid Scholarship Players are Employees Under the Common Law Definition

In sum, based on the entire record in this case, I find that the Employer’s football players who receive scholarships fall squarely within the Act’s broad definition of “employee” when one considers the common law definition of “employee.”  However, I find that the walk-ons do not meet the definition of “employee” for the fundamental reason that they do not receive compensation for the athletic services that they perform. Unlike the scholarship players, the walk-ons do not sign a “tender” or otherwise enter into any type of employment contract with the Employer. The walk-ons also appear to be permitted a greater amount of flexibility by the football coaches when it comes to missing portions of practices and workouts during the football season if they conflict with their class schedule. In this regard, it is noted that both scholarship players who testified, Colter and Ward, testified that they did not enroll in classes that conflicted with their football commitments. This distinction is not surprising given that the players are compelled by the terms of their “tender” to remain on the team and participate in all its activities in order to maintain their scholarship.

The walk-ons, on the other hand, have nothing tying them to the football team except their “love of the game” and the strong camaraderie that exists among the players. That some of the walk-ons may also have aspirations of earning a football scholarship does not change the fact that they do not receive any compensation at that point in their collegiate football careers. Thus, the mere fact that they practice (and sometimes play) alongside the scholarship players is insufficient to meet the definition of “employee.” However, if a walk-on were to be awarded a scholarship at some later point, they would then be an “employee” within the meaning of the Act and would be included in the unit. Finally, to ensure that only those players who actually meet the definition of “employee” are included in the unit, I conclude that only players who are currently receiving scholarships and who have not exhausted their four years (or five years, in the case of a “redshirt” player) of NCAA playing eligibility will be eligible to vote.This will serve to exclude from the unit those players whose playing eligibility was exhausted at the conclusion of the 2013 regular football season. In the same way, incoming freshmen players will be excluded from the unit until they began to perform athletic services for the Employer in exchange for the compensation set forth in their “tender.”

C. Brown University is not Applicable

In its brief, the Employer contends that the Employer’s football players who receive scholarships are not employees because they do not meet the statutory definition of “employee” articulated in Brown University, 342 NLRB 483 (2004). The Union, however, argues that the Brown University decision does not control whether the grant-in-aid players are employees. In Brown University, the Board found that graduate assistants were not “employees” after considering four factors: (1) the status of graduate assistants as students; (2) the role of the graduate student assistantships in graduate education; (3) the graduate student assistants’ relationship with the faculty; and (4) the financial support they receive to attend Brown University. In applying those factors, the Board concluded that the overall relationship between the graduate assistants and their university was primarily an educational one, rather than economic one. Although I find that this statutory test is inapplicable in the instant case because the players’ football-related duties are unrelated to their academic studies unlike the graduate assistants whose teaching and research duties were inextricably related to their graduate degree requirements, for the reasons discussed below the outcome would not change even after applying the four factors to the facts of this case.

1. The Employer’s Grant-in-Aid Scholarship Football Players are not “Primarily Students”

The first factor that the Board considered in Brown University was the fact that all the graduate assistants were enrolled as students and that their purported employment status was contingent on their enrollment. Id. at 488. But this alone was not dispositive because the Board went on to consider the amount of time the graduate assistants spent on their educational studies as opposed to their work duties. In finding that they were “primarily students,” the Board held that “students serving as graduate student assistants spend only a limited number of hours performing their duties, and it is beyond dispute that their principal time commitment at Brown is focused on obtaining a degree and, thus, being a student.” Id.

In contrast, in the instant case it cannot be said the Employer’s scholarship players are “primarily students.” The players spend 50 to 60 hours per week on their football duties during a one-month training camp prior to the start of the academic year and an additional 40 to 50 hours per week on those duties during the three or four month football season. Not only is this more hours than many undisputed full-time employees work at their jobs, it is also many more hours than the players spend on their studies. In fact, the players do not attend academic classes while in training camp or the first few weeks of the regular season. After the academic year begins, the players still continue to devote 40 to 50 hours per week on football-related activities while only spending about 20 hours per week attending classes. Obviously, the players are also required to spend time studying and completing their homework as they have to spend time practicing their football skills even without the direct orders of their coaches. But it cannot be said that they are “primarily students” who “spend only a limited number of hours performing their athletic duties.”

2. Grant-in-Aid Scholarship Football Players’ Athletic Duties do not Constitute a Core Element of Their Educational Degree Requirements

The second factor that the Board considered in Brown University was the extent to which the graduate assistants’ teaching and research duties constituted a core element of their graduate degree requirements. Id. at 488-89. The Board found that the graduate assistants received both academic credit for performing their duties, and for the substantial majority, these duties were a requirement for them to be able to obtain their graduate degree. Id. Due to the fact that the graduate assistants’ duties were directly related to their educational requirements, it was determined that their relationship with the university was an academic one as opposed to an economic one. Id.

In this case, it is undisputed that the Employer’s scholarship players do not receive any academic credit for playing football. They are also not required to play football in order to obtain their undergraduate degree, regardless of which major they pursue. The fact that the players undoubtedly learn great life lessons from participating on the football team and take with them important values such as character, dedication, perseverance, and team work, is insufficient to show that their relationship with the Employer is primarily an academic one. Indeed, as already discussed above, this relationship is an economic one that involves the transfer of great sums of money to the players in the form of scholarships. The Employer expends between $61,000 and $76,000 per scholarship per year or in other words over five million dollars per year for the 85 scholarships.

3. The Employer’s Academic Faculty does not Supervise Grant-in-Aid Scholarship Players’ Athletic Duties

The third factor that the Board considered in Brown University was the graduate assistants’ relationship with the faculty. Id. at 489. In particular, the Board found that the faculty oversaw the work of graduate assistants and it was a part of the latter’s education since the work was typically performed under the direction and control of faculty members from those students’ particular educational departments. Id. In fact, these same faculty members were responsible for teaching the students and assisting them in the preparation of their dissertations. Id.

Here, the Employer’s scholarship players are in a different position than the graduate assistants since the academic faculty members do not oversee the athletic duties that the players’ perform. Instead, football coaches, who are not members of the academic faculty, are responsible for supervising the players’ athletic duties. This critical distinction certainly lessens any concern that imposing collective bargaining would have a “deleterious impact on overall educational decisions” by the Employer’s academic faculty. While it is true that the Employer’s administration does play a role in determining whether to cancel a scholarship, Fitzgerald’s recommendation has been followed in the two instances where this has happened. Accordingly, the players’ lack of a relationship with the faculty when performing their athletic duties militates against a finding that they are merely students.

4. Grant-in-Aid Scholarship Players’ Compensation is not Financial Aid

The fourth factor that the Board considered in Brown University was the fact that the graduate assistants’ compensation was not pay for services performed, but rather financial aid to attend the university. Id. at 488-89. In discussing this factor, the Board noted two relevant facts: (1) that the graduate assistants received the same compensation as the graduate fellows for whom no teaching or research was required; and (2) that the graduate assistants’ compensation was not tied to the quality of their work. Id.

Unlike the graduate assistants, the facts here show that the Employer never offer a scholarship to a prospective student unless they intend to provide an athletic service to the Employer. In fact, the players can have their scholarships immediately canceled if they voluntarily withdraw from the football team. Even players who are not starters and consequently do not play in any games, must still attend all of the practices, workouts, and meetings as a condition of retaining their scholarship. In contrast to scholarships, need-based financial aid that walk-ons (and other regular students) receive is not provided in exchange for any type of service to the Employer. For this reason, the walk-ons are free to quit the team at any time without losing their financial aid. This simply is not true for players receiving football scholarships who stand to lose their scholarship if they “voluntarily withdraw” from the team.

D. The Employer’s Grant-in-Aid Scholarships Players are not Temporary Employees Within the Meaning of the Act

Under Board law, the general test for determining the eligibility of individuals designated as temporary employees is whether they have an uncertain tenure. Marian Medical Center, 339 NLRB 127 (2003). If the tenure of the disputed individuals is indefinite and they are otherwise eligible, they are permitted to vote. Personal Products Corp., 114 NLRB 959 (1955); Lloyd A. Fry Roofing Co., 121 NLRB 1433 (1958); United States Aluminum Corp., 305 NLRB 719 (1991); and NLRB v. New England Lithographic Co., 589 F.2d 29 (1st Cir. 1978). On the other hand, where employees are employed for one job only, or for a set duration, or have no substantial expectancy of continued employment and are notified of this fact, and there have been no recalls, such employees are excluded as temporaries. Indiana Bottled Gas Co., 128 NLRB 1441 fn. 4 (1960); Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 140 NLRB 1323 (1963); Sealite, Inc., 125 NLRB 619 (1959); and E. F. Drew & Co., 133 NLRB 155 (1961).

In Boston Medical Center, 330 NLRB 152 (1999), the Board considered the employer’s contention that its house officers were temporary employees by virtue of the fact that they worked there for a set period of time – albeit, anywhere from three to seven years depending on their particular residency program. The Board there clarified that it will not find individuals to be temporary employees simply because their employment will terminate on a date certain. In reaching this conclusion, it was noted that: “[T]he Board has never applied the term ‘temporary’ to employees whose employment, albeit of finite duration, might last from 3 to 7 or more years, and we will not do so here. In many employment relationships, an employee may have a set tenure and, in that sense, may not have an indefinite departure date. Athletes who have 1, 2, or greater years’ length employment contracts are, theoretically at least, employed for a limited time, unless their contracts are renewed; work at a legal aid office may be for a set 2-year period; a teaching assignment similarly may be on a contract basis. To extend the definition of ‘temporary employee’ to such situations, however, would be to make what was intended to be a limited exception swallow the whole. Id. at 166.

In the instant case, the Employer’s scholarship players have employment that is of a finite duration much like the house officers in Boston Medical Center. The players, due to NCAA eligibility rules, may generally only remain on the football team for four years, or at most five years in the case of a “redshirt” player. However, given the substantial length of the players’ employment it is clear that they cannot be found to be temporary employees under Board law. Finally, to the extent that the Employer cites San Francisco Art Institute, 226 NLRB 1251 (1976), in support of its position that its players are temporary employees, I find that case to be distinguishable. There the Board refused to direct an election for a unit of student janitors, who generally worked 20 hours per week at their art school and were subject to a high turnover rate due to their brief employment tenure, because they were found to be concerned primarily with their studies rather than with their part-time employment. The Employer’s scholarship players stand in stark contrast to those student janitors due to the fact that they: (1) work in excess of well over 40 hours per week during training camp and the football season; (2) work virtually year round and have a much longer employment tenure; and (3) do not have a “very tenuous secondary interest” in their employment. This is clearly established by the undeniable fact that the scholarship players’ interest and skill in playing football are far greater than a “very tenuous secondary interest” but in fact a primary interest. Moreover, but for their football prowess the players would not have been offered a scholarship by the Employer. Significantly, San Francisco Art Institute, id., has not been relied upon by the Board since it issued in 1976.

 

E. The Petitioned-for-Unit is an Appropriate Unit

The Employer contends that the petitioned-for-unit is not an appropriate unit for two reasons: (1) the unit consists of scholarship players who are not employees; and (2) the unit is an arbitrary, fractured grouping that that excludes walk-ons who share an overwhelming community of interest with the sought after unit. Having already concluded that the Employer’s scholarships players are “employees” under the Act, I will now address its second assertion.

The Board in Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobile, 357 NLRB No. 83, slip op. at 1 (2011), enfd. sub nom. Kindred Nursing Centers East, LLC v. NLRB, 727 F.3d 552 (6thCir 2013), held that a petitioned-for-unit is not an appropriate unit if it excludes employees who have an “overwhelming community of interest” with those employees that the union seeks to represent. Consistent with this decision, the Board shortly thereafter found in Odwalla, Inc., 357 NLRB No. 132 slip op. at 5 (2011), that a petitioned-for-unit was not an appropriate unit because it excluded employees who shared an “overwhelming community of interest” with other employees. Thus, it is clear that, “a petitioner cannot fracture a unit, seeking representation in ‘an arbitrary segment’ of what would be an appropriate unit.” Specialty Healthcare, 357 NLRB No. 83, slip op. at 13, citing Pratt & Whitney, 327 NLRB 1213, 1217 (1999).

In its brief, the Employer asserts that the petitioned-for-unit in the instant case is a fractured one because it excludes the walk-ons, who share an “overwhelming community of interest” with the Employer’s scholarship players. It points out that the walk-ons are subject to the same rules, attend the same football practices and workouts, and play in the same football games if their skills warrant it. Indeed, the Employer contends that the “only” difference between the two groups is that the scholarship players receive compensation for their athletic services. The receipt of this compensation in and of itself is a substantial difference in whatever community of interests exists between the two groups. Fundamentally, walk-on players do not share the significant threat of possibly losing up to the equivalent of a quarter million dollars in scholarship if they stop playing football for the Employer as do the scholarship players. Moreover, to constitute a fractured unit, the putative group must consist of employees as defined by the Act, and the Employer concedes that the lack of scholarship precludes a finding that the walk-ons are employees under the Act. In the absence of a finding that the walk-on players are employees a fractured unit cannot exist, and the petitioned for unit is an appropriate unit.

F. The Petitioner is a Labor Organization Within the Meaning of the Act

The Employer argues that the Petitioner is not a labor organization within the meaning of the Act unless the following two conditions are met: (1) its players who receive scholarships are found to be “employees” within the meaning of the Act; and (2) the petitioned-for-unit is found to be an appropriate unit within the meaning of the Act.

Section 2(5) of the Act provides the following definition of “labor organization”:  Any organization of any kind, or any agency or employee representation committee or plan, in which employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work.

The statutory definition of a “labor organization” has long been interpreted broadly. See, Electromation, Inc., 309 NLRB 990, 993-94 (1992), enf’d. 35 F.3d 1148 (7th Cir. 1994). To fall within the definition of a “labor organization,” the Board has held that employees must participate in the organization and it must exist for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers on their behalf regarding their wages, hours of employment and other terms and conditions of employment. Alto Plastic Mfg. Corp., 136 NLRB 850, 851-852 (1962).

At the hearing, the Petitioner introduced evidence that it was established to represent and advocate for certain collegiate athletes, including the Employer’s players who receive scholarships, in collective bargaining with respect to health and safety, financial support, and other terms and conditions of employment. A substantial portion of the Employer’s scholarship players have also signed authorization cards seeking to have the Petitioner represent them for the purposes of collective bargaining, and some of them, have taken a more active role with the Petitioner, including Colter. In addition, the players will presumably have the opportunity to participate in contract negotiations if the Petitioner is ultimately certified. Based on the evidence presented at the hearing and the Employer’s conditional stipulation which was met, I find that the Petitioner is a labor organization within the meaning of the Act.

V. CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing and the entire record herein, I have found that all grant-in-aid scholarship players for the Employer’s football team who have not exhausted their playing eligibility are “employees” under Section 2(3) of the Act. Thus, I direct an immediate election in this case.

VI. DIRECTION OF ELECTION

An election by secret ballot shall be conducted by the undersigned among the employees in the unit found appropriate at the time and place set forth in the notice of election to be issued subsequently, subject to the Board’s Rules and Regulations. Eligible to vote are all football players receiving football grant-in-aid scholarship and not having exhausted their playing eligibility employed by the Employer located at 1501 Central Street, Evanston, Illinois, but excluding office clerical employees and guards, professional employees and supervisors as defined in the Act.

Employees engaged in any economic strike, who have retained their status as strikers and who have not been permanently replaced are also eligible to vote. In addition, in an economic strike which commenced less than 12 months before the election date, employees engaged in such strikes that have retained their status as strikers but who have been permanently replaced, as well as their replacements are eligible to vote. Those in the military services of the United States may vote if they appear in person at the polls. Ineligible to vote are employees who have quit or been discharged for cause since the designated payroll period, employees engaged in a strike who have been discharged for cause since the commencement thereof and who have not been rehired or reinstated before the election date, and employees engaged in an economic strike which commenced more than 12 months before the election date and who have been permanently replaced.

Those eligible shall vote whether or not they desire to be represented for collective bargaining purposes by College Athletes Players Association (CAPA).

VII. LIST OF VOTERS

To insure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to be informed of the issues in the exercise of their statutory right to vote, all parties to the election should have access to a list of voters and their addresses, which may be used to communicate with them. Excelsior Underwear, Inc., 156 NLRB 1236 (1966); NLRB v. Wyman-Gordon Employer, 394 U.S. 759 (1969). Accordingly, it is directed that two (2) copies of an eligibility list containing the full names and addresses of all the eligible voters must be filed by the Employer with the undersigned within 7 days from the date of this Decision. North Macon Health Care Facility, 315 NLRB 359 (1994). The undersigned shall make this list available to all parties to the election. In order to be timely filed, such list must be received in Region 13’s Office, 209 South, LaSalle Street, Suite 900, Chicago, Illinois 60604 on or before April 2, 2014. No extension of time to file this list shall be granted except in extraordinary circumstances, nor shall the filing of a request for review operate to stay the requirement here imposed. Failure to comply with this requirement shall be grounds for setting aside the election whenever proper objections are filed.

VIII. RIGHT TO REQUEST REVIEW

Under the provisions of Section 102.67 of the Board’s Rules and Regulations, a request for review of this Decision may be filed with the National Labor Relations Board, addressed to the Executive Secretary, 1099 14th Street, N.W., Washington, DC  20570-0001. This request must be received by the Board in Washington by April 9, 2014.

In the Regional Office’s initial correspondence, the parties were advised that the National Labor Relations Board has expanded the list of permissible documents that may be electronically filed with its offices. If a party wishes to file one of the documents which may now be filed electronically, please refer to the Attachment supplied with the Regional Office’s initial correspondence for guidance in doing so. Guidance for E-filing can also be found on the National Labor Relations Board web site at http://www.nlrb.gov. On the home page of the website, select the E-Gov tab and click on E-Filing. Then select the NLRB office for which you wish to E-File your documents. Detailed E-filing instructions explaining how to file the documents electronically will be displayed.

 

DATED at Chicago, Illinois this 26th day of March 2014.

/s/ Peter Sung Ohr

Peter Sung Ohr, Regional Director National Labor Relations Board, Region 13, 209 South LaSalle Street, 9thFloor Chicago, Illinois 60604

About martinkich

I am a Professor of English at Wright State University, where I have been a faculty member for almost 25 years. I serve as the president of the WSU chapter of AAUP, which now includes two bargaining units, as the vice-president of the Ohio Conference of AAUP, and as a member of the executive committee of AAUP's Collective Bargaining Congress. As co-chair of the Ohio Conference's Communication Committee, I began to do much more overtly political writing during the campaign to repeal Ohio's Senate Bill 5, which would have eliminated the right of faculty to be unionized.

3 comments on “Full-Text of Today’s NLRB Decision Permitting Athletes at Northwestern University to Unionize

  1. Hank Reichman
    March 27, 2014

    The petition came from Northwestern because along with Purdue it is one of only two members of the conference that is a private institution and hence under the jurisdiction of the NLRB.

    • John K. Wilson
      March 27, 2014

      Actually, Purdue is also a public university. Northwestern was really a victim of its own academic excellence. It tends to attract student-athletes who are more interested in a quality education than the average football player. In this case, quarterback Kain Colter didn’t take the usual softball classes in sports management (he wanted to be pre-med, but football made that impossible). One of Colter’s classes dealt with labor issues, and that apparently got him thinking about unionization. A smart, charismatic quarterback has a lot of influence over a football team, and Colter arranged the union drive in secret before Northwestern ever knew what hit them.

  2. martinkich
    June 28, 2014

    Reblogged this on Ohio Higher Ed.

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This entry was posted on March 27, 2014 by in collective bargaining, compensation, ethics, students, unions, working conditions and tagged .
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