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NLRB Decides Against Exercising Jurisdiction in Northwestern University v. College Athletes Players

On March 26, 2014, the Regional Director for Region 13 issued a Decision and Direction of Election in which he found that a petitioned-for unit of all football players receiving grant-in-aid athletics scholarships from Northwestern University are employees within the meaning of Section 2(3) of the National Labor Relations Act (“Act”) and that the petitioned-for unit is appropriate. In a much awaited decision, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) decided against exercising jurisdiction in the case.

The NLRB concluded “that asserting jurisdiction in this case would not serve to promote stability in labor relations. Our decision today is limited to the grant-in-aid scholarship football players covered by the petition in this particular case; whether we might assert jurisdiction in another case involving grant-in-aid scholarship football players (or other types of scholarship athletes) is a question we need not and do not address at this time.” Accordingly, the NLRB reasoned “[p]rocessing a petition for the scholarship players at this single institution under the circumstances presented here would not promote stability in labor relations. Moreover, recent changes, as well as calls for additional reforms, suggest that the situation of scholarship players may well change in the near future.”

The NLRB further stated even if the scholarship players were statutory employees, it would not effectuate the policies of the Act to assert jurisdiction in this case.

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