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Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Seeks to Prevent Illegal Unionization of U of M Graduate Student Research Assistants

MIDLAND, MICHIGAN — Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Director Patrick J. Wright filed a motion today before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission seeking to prevent graduate student research assistants at the University of Michigan from being unionized as public employees. The motion was filed on behalf of Melinda Day, a graduate research assistant at U of M’s Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department.

“This is not an open question,” said Wright. “MERC has already rejected unionization for these students. In fact, MERC delivered this ruling years ago in a case involving the exact same union, the exact same university and the exact same group of graduate students, and it made its decision after 19 days of hearings, thousands of pages of exhibits and hundreds of pages of legal briefs. The only difference now is that a politically divided Board of Regents of the University of Michigan, over the university administration’s objections, has voted to support this illegal unionization. The regents cannot unilaterally rewrite the laws of this state, however.”

MERC’s earlier ruling came in 1981 in response to a petition by the Graduate Employees Organization — the same union applying to MERC now — to organize the University of Michigan’s graduate student research assistants.  In that case, which now serves as legal precedent, MERC denied the GEO’s petition and concluded that the students were not public employees.

The GEO has not attempted to show that MERC’s ruling was flawed. If the unionization were approved, the union would more than double its membership and more than double its dues to over $1 million annually, according to the Foundation’s estimates.

“Typically, the employer would object here, but the regents’ 6-2 vote in May favoring union supporters meant that our client’s legal rights were now at risk,” Wright said.

“The regents are intruding on the crucial relationship between me and my mentor,” said Day. “Unionization could interfere with students’ ability to complete their dissertations and obtain their degrees, because it places a union between students and their faculty mentors. Our liberty is being lost, and I won’t stand by and let it happen.”

-Mackinac Center Legal Foundation-

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