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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

‘We are very happy’: Men’s basketball players, union leader discuss historic vote

The men’s basketball team formally voted on Tuesday to join the SEIU Local 560, a critical step in their historic mission to unionize.

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Courtesy of Laine Higgins

On March 5, 13 members of the men’s basketball team voted in favor of joining the Service Employees International Union, Local 560, with only two members voting against joining. The National Labor Relations Board supervised the election and announced the result in Dartmouth College’s Office of Human Resources Tuesday afternoon, located at 7 Lebanon Street, ahead of the Big Green’s matchup against Harvard University.

In September 2023, the team formally filed a petition to the NLRB to unionize. On Feb. 5, the regional director of the NLRB, Laura Sacks, deemed the players as university employees and ordered an election for them to unionize. 

Eleven members of the team arrived to vote together around 12:30 p.m., posing outside for a photo opportunity with Chris Peck, the president of SEIU Local 560. When the polls closed at 1 p.m., Hillary Bede, a representative of the NLRB, was approached by the College associate general counsel, Josh Grubman, who stated that the College wished that the vote be impounded before the counting. However, since the request was still pending, it was not upheld, and the vote counting proceeded as scheduled. 

Bede organized all 15 votes into “yes” and “no” piles before certifying the votes with SEIU Local 560 vice president Billy Lyons and a representative of the College. 

Peck praised the fact that all 15 members of the team voted. There was a 100% turnout for the election with no voided votes. In comparison, in April 2023, the College attempted to exclude 54% of graduate students from voting in the unionization vote of the Graduate Organized Laborers of Dartmouth on eligibility grounds, according to previous coverage by The Dartmouth. Ultimately, only 13 votes were challenged during the GOLD-UE union vote, which passed. 

“The fact that all 15 guys came, and voted, that is just unbelievable,” Peck said. “We are very happy, obviously.”

Peck acknowledged SEIU Local 560’s wide reach in the Dartmouth community, noting how around 500 employees at Dartmouth Dining, Facilities Operations & Management and the athletic department, among other groups, are members of the union. He also acknowledged how unique this process has been for the SEIU, highlighting the College’s “pushback” in reaction to the men’s basketball team’s unionization efforts. 

“We’ve never had the College pushback like they are now,” Peck said. “It lets you know how serious [the men’s basketball unionization] is.”

This election is a historic moment for college athletes across the country, but it has not come without resistance. The College released a statement on Dartmouth News shortly after the vote indicating its position on the election results, stating that the men’s basketball players are not employees of the College and that they should not be able to unionize. 

“The students on the men’s basketball team are not in any way employed by Dartmouth,” the statement read. “For Ivy League students who are varsity athletes, academics are of primary importance, and athletic pursuit is part of the educational experience. Classifying these students as employees simply because they play basketball is as unprecedented as it is inaccurate. We, therefore, do not believe unionization is appropriate.”

In a press release from SEIU Local 560 following the election results, player representatives Cade Haskins ’25 and Romeo Myrthil ’25 elaborated on this unique opportunity.

“We stuck together all season and won this election,” Haskins and Myrthil wrote. “It is self-evident that we, as students, can also be both campus workers and union members. Dartmouth seems to be stuck in the past. It’s time for the age of amateurism to end.”

Haskins and Myrthil also called upon the Board of Trustees and President Sian Beilock to work with the newly formed union, noting Beilock’s initiative of creating “brave spaces” to foster dialogue and freedom of expression on campus.

“We call on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees and President Beilock to live the truth of her own words and cultivate ‘brave spaces,’ in which ‘changing one’s mind based on new evidence is a good thing,’” Haskins and Myrthil wrote. “Let’s work together to create a less exploitative business model for college sports.”

Peck also praised the two player representatives after the election, highlighting their leadership on the team throughout this process.

“I can’t say enough about [Haskins] and [Myrthil] and a lot of the team, they’re just unbelievable,” Peck said. 

Peck noted that the union has received “help from outside sources” given how “historical and important this is for athletes across the country.”

After the certification of the vote, both parties will have 10 business days to formally file an objection to the results of the vote. According to the Wall Street Journal, Dartmouth immediately filed a request for a review of the vote, an action that the Ivy League and NCAA may take as well. The Journal also noted that the legal proceedings that follow this election could take years to pan out in their entirety.