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College Sports, Division I, Division II, Division III, Education, Legal

Northwestern-Athlete Union Issue: Primer on Terms and Concepts, Part I

On April 9, 2014, Northwestern University filed an appeal to the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) regarding the decision of the agency’s district office, which determined the institution’s scholarship football student-athletes are employees who can unionize. According to the Wall Street Journal, the institution’s appeal stated NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr’s “decision overlooked or ignored important evidence Northwestern had presented showing its student-athletes are primarily students and not employees. Northwestern cited its 97% graduation rate among its football players, for example, which it says demonstrates the school’s emphasis on its ‘student-athletes’ academic success.” [Click here to read the full Wall Street Journal article.] Buckner, as well as other legal experts, predicts the Northwestern case will wind its way through the federal courts (including a showdown in the United States Supreme Court).

Buckner will begin a blog series explaining the various concepts involving collective bargaining. Today’s entry in the series will briefly summarize the National Labor Relations Act (Title 29, Chapter 7, Subchapter II, United States Code [29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169]) and the NLRB:

National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”): A federal law enacted by the United States Congress in 1935 “to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.”

National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”): An independent federal agency that protects the rights of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve their wages and working conditions. The NLRB has a five member board, which “primarily acts as a quasi-judicial body in deciding cases on the basis of formal records in administrative proceedings.” Members of the NLRB board “are appointed by the President to 5-year terms, with Senate consent, the term of one Member expiring each year.”

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About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.

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