For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Contact: Michael Jahr
Vice President for Communications
Patrick J. Wright
Director, Mackinac Center Legal Foundation
MIDLAND — Gov. Rick Snyder this morning signed into law an amendment to Michigan’s public labor law statutorily confirming that graduate student research assistants at state universities are not government employees. This clarification of what had been considered settled law for 30 years was a victory for students and for the rule of law, according to Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.
“This was not only a question of law, but one of common sense,” said Wright, who represented more than 370 students in a case to prevent GSRAs from being treated as government employees for the purposes of collective bargaining. “People pursuing graduate degrees are clearly students, not government employees. Our clients look forward to getting back to their studies and research, free from the looming threat of forced unionization.”
Melinda Day, a graduate research assistant in the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Department at the University of Michigan and a client of the MCLF in this case, was elated when she heard that the bill had been signed.
“It’s a relief,” said Day, who was one of the first students to stand up to the U-M Board of Regents’ decision to allow GSRAs to vote to unionize even though a longstanding legal ruling determined that they were students and not eligible for collective bargaining. “Now I can get back to the real reason I’m at the University of Michigan — to pursue my doctoral degree as a graduate student.”
“The law has finally been upheld and we’re seen for what we are, students and not employees,” said Adam Duzik, president of Students Against GRSA Unionization, which was represented by the MCLF.
The Graduate Employees Organization, the union that sought to represent the U-M GRSAs, stood to more than double its membership and more than double its dues — to over $1 million annually.
Wright said the law should eliminate any further question about the students’ status, but added that he would continue to monitor developments surrounding the case.