with video: Judge to decide if U-M graduate student researchers can unionize
The Michigan Employment Relations Commission voted Tuesday to allow an administrative law judge to decide if Graduate Student Research Assistants at state universities can unionize.
The 2-1 vote is a triumph for a group of University of Michigan GSRAs that have been trying to unionize for more than a year.
After the regents' vote, GSRAs sought permission from MERC to unionize, but were initially denied. A group of GSRAs and advocates have appealed that denial, and MERC voted Tuesday to let a judge decide whether GSRAs should be allowed to unionize.
MERC also denied Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's appeal to become a party in the case. Schuette has been an outspoken opponent of GSRA unionization and last month filed a motion to become involved in the case, saying unionization could "significantly damage" and "seriously jeopardize" U-M.
MERC did, however, say Schuette could submit evidence to the judge.
“We’re gratified that we’re going to have the opportunity to prove that the GSRAs are employees with the right to vote,” Samantha Montgomery said in an email. Montgomery is the president of the Graduate Employees Organization, a U-M group that's been advocating for GSRA unionization.
The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, a group that has been fighting GSRAs ability to unionize, criticized MERC's decision. The Mackinac Center, which says it represents the voice of hundreds of GSRAs who don't agree with unionization, also filed a motion to become party in the case but was denied by MERC.
"We now have a case where an administrative law judge is going to hear from two parties — the union and the university acting at the behest of the Board of Regents — both representing the case for unionization. The students directly impacted by the decision were left out in the cold," Mackinac Center Director Patrick J. Wright said Tuesday.