US Labor Commission sided with region with USC athletes seeking ‘staff’ title

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The University of Southern California is pictured in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

By Steve Gormann

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The Los Angeles region head of US labor law enforcement has sided with basketball and football players who were awarded scholarships at the University of Southern California (USC) to find seek recognition as an employee and the right to form a union.

The director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) of the agency’s Area 31 office issued a judgment that is credited with charging unfair labor practices brought by student athletes during matches against USC, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Pac-12 athletic conference.

Kayla Blado, a spokeswoman for the NLRB, said the parties to the case were notified of the decision on Thursday.

It marks the first such ruling since the NLRB’s top attorney issued a legal opinion in September 2021 asserting that college athletes should be classified as employees and therefore are protected by U.S. labor law when providing profit-generating services through athletic activities controlled by their school.

The 2021 memo from Jennifer Abruzzo, the agency’s general counsel, informed colleges and universities that the NLRB’s 32 regions will support college players’ validating efforts, effectively invite athletes to join the union.

A separate lawsuit filed by college athletes in Indianapolis against the NCAA and others has been suspended pending the outcome of the USC case.

Area 31’s award results were based on their determination that the USC, Pac-12, and NCAA, as joint employers, “perpetuated illegal rules and misclassified illegal legally scholarship basketball and football players are only ‘student athletes’ rather than employees protected under our law,” Abruzzo said on Thursday.

As a conclusion of merit, the parties may resolve their dispute or the regional director will prosecute the athlete’s case on their behalf before an administrative law judge, who may order a redress.

The judge’s ruling can then be appealed to the full NLRB, which will decide whether USC, NCAA, and Pac-12 are employers under employment law and whether or not may request its own remedies.

USC issued a statement indicating it would object to the ruling, saying “the matter is still in its early stages” and that “no final decision will be made until a hearing is held.” full ceiling based on all relevant legal facts.”

“We look forward to presenting those facts, along with 75 years of favorable legal precedent,” the university said.

The USC Trojans, whose quarterback Caleb Williams was just named Heisman Trophy winner of the year, are ranked among the top college teams in the United States.

The NCAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters and the Pac-12 declined to comment.

The National College Players Association, which made the allegations on behalf of the 113 USC athletes, was also unable to comment.


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