Nearly a decade ago, members of the Northwestern football team tried to unionize.
The National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency charged with protecting employees’ rights to organize and determining whether to have unions as their bargaining representatives, voted unanimously in Aug. 2015 to decline to assert jurisdiction in the case. The NLRB held that asserting jurisdiction over a single team wouldn’t promote stability in labor relations league-wide, as the NCAA and conference maintain significant control over individual teams.
The NLRB noted the decision applied only to the players in the case and didn’t preclude reconsideration of this issue in the future.
Fast forward to 2021, when the United States Supreme Court decided in a 9-0 ruling that antitrust laws prohibit the NCAA from limiting its Division I schools from offering “education-related compensation or benefits” to student-athletes.