Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Welcomes Attorney General Entry Into U-M Grad Student Unionization Case

AG’s participation highlights ‘critical importance’ of upholding law and protecting rights of research assistants

For Immediate Release
Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011
Contact: Patrick Wright
Director, Mackinac Center Legal Foundation
or
Michael D. Jahr
Vice President for Communications
989-631-0900

MIDLAND — Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, today welcomed Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s decision to intervene in an administrative proceeding where a government-sector union is attempting to forcibly unionize graduate student research assistants at the University of Michigan. The Attorney General filed the motion yesterday.

 “The Attorney General’s participation demonstrates the critical importance of the issue and highlights the irregularities that have occurred at the U-M Board of Regents and proceedings of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission,” said Wright, who represents more than 370 U-M graduate student research assistants in the case. “The Attorney General’s petition is extremely rare or may be unprecedented at this stage of an administrative process.”

Wright noted that the Attorney General’s office is petitioning on behalf of the people of Michigan, not the MCLF clients. In November, Wright submitted a brief on behalf of “Students Against GSRA Unionization,” asking MERC to stand by its earlier ruling that determined that graduate student research assistants are not government employees and therefore not subject to unionization. In July, Wright filed the original motion on behalf of U-M graduate student research assistant Melinda Day, seeking to end the unionization process.

The Attorney General’s brief highlighted several reasons for intervening in the case, including the critical importance of the U-M to the state economy, the amount of state resources that it receives and the fact that the unionization effort could put the state at a competitive disadvantage.

The brief also referenced a June 24 letter to Provost Philip Hanlon, in which 19 of 20 U-M deans wrote to express their “concern about the potential negative impacts that would result from unionization.”

MERC initially upheld the law in September when it rejected a petition from the Graduate Employees Organization to conduct a unionization election on the U-M campus. But in November, MERC responded to a GEO motion for reconsideration by indicating that it may allow a vote to proceed. A final decision may be rendered at MERC’s Dec. 13 regular meeting.

For more information about the case, visit www.mackinac.org/15467.

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