Scary and Daunting: Dartmouth Players Detail How Union Plan Came Together

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The Dartmouth College men’s basketball team gathered at the Hanover Inn near campus on a rainy Tuesday. They walked over to a nearby office building where they posed for a group photo and then headed up to a conference room to cast a historic vote.

After an hour of tallying, the basketball players achieved something unprecedented in college sports: they formed a union with a 13-2 vote.

Cade Haskins, a junior on the team and a key figure in the effort, expressed both excitement and apprehension about the milestone. He hoped their action would pave the way for recognition of athletes as employees under federal labor law.

However, the path ahead is uncertain. Dartmouth filed an appeal against a decision to classify the players as employees, meaning the case could drag on for years.

The vote comes at a time when college sports face mounting challenges, including legal disputes over athlete compensation and declining support in Congress.

While Dartmouth may not seem like a hotbed of activism, recent years have seen a surge in labor activity on campus, including among student workers and graduate students.

The push for unionization among athletes gained momentum after Dartmouth’s dining service workers successfully organized and negotiated higher wages and better benefits.

Haskins and his teammates were inspired by this victory and began working with the Service Employees International Union to pursue their own unionization efforts.

Their case, however, is complex. Unlike athletes at schools with lucrative sports programs, Dartmouth basketball players do not receive athletic scholarships and the team is subsidized by the college.

Despite these challenges, the players remain determined to fight for their rights. Their vote to form a union marks a significant step forward, but the road ahead is likely to be long and uncertain.

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