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Posted on Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

University of Michigan Regents show continued support of GSRA's right to unionize

By Kellie Woodhouse

The University of Michigan Board of Regents voted 5-3 Monday to support a lawsuit filed by House Democrats contending that Republicans acted unconstitutionally in March when they passed a bill banning graduate researchers from unionizing and put it into immediate effect.

Graduate Students Research Assistants have been fighting for unionization for a year, but in early March House Republicans passed a measure rendering unionization illegal. While most bills have a 90-day waiting period before going to the governor's desk, the Republicans used a legislative maneuver to put the bill into effect immediately.

The immediate effect maneuver must be passed by two-thirds of House legislators. House Democrats sued the Republicans last week, saying that Republicans did not count votes properly to ensure a two-thirds majority.

During a special session Monday, regents voted to submit a brief in support of the Democrats' lawsuit, filed in Ingham County Circuit Court. A judge has granted a temporary restraining order on the bill and will review the Democrats' case in the coming weeks.

"The rules of due process were not followed," said Laurence B. Deitch, a Democratic regent.


Regent S. Martin Taylor at a recent meeting.

Melanie Maxwell |

Regent S. Martin Taylor proposed writing a legal brief in support of the Democrats' lawsuit. However, Regents Andrea Fischer Newman and Andrew C. Richner said they did not think it was the board's place to involve itself in legislative matters.

"We shouldn’t be involved in legislative procedural issues," Newman said.

Richner added: "It's unprecedented and I think it will have long-term implications that we may regret. I think that this case goes well beyond (the GSRA unionization) issue and I don't think we should be taking a position."

Suellyn Scarnecchia, U-M's chief lawyer, said the action was unusual.

Regent Olivia P.Maynard, who voted in with regents in May 2011 to allow GSRAs to vote for a union, was the sole Democrat to vote against the motion.

"I've determined that it does no good," she said of intervening.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Wed, Apr 4, 2012 : 3:40 a.m.

These folks need to stop giving public money away. Maybe if the dollars came out of THEIR pockets they would act differently. Maybe the state should just cut off funding for this university since it likes to act as a private institution. Ridiculous leadership.

Katie P

Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

I wish the regents would just leave it alone. I'm a UM GSRA, and as I understand it, there's only a small group of GSRAs who want to unionize. All the GSRAs I know (myself included) are against this unionization, were happy with the legislative ruling to classify us as students rather than employees, and just want to be left alone and allowed to get on with our studies.


Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

Did the Regents have a meeting Monday? Was it announced? Was this a violation of the Open Meetings Act?


Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

There democrats ..they don't think they just vote the party line ( with one exception ) ..I think the regents should unionize ...more $$$ for the union war chest....."you get what you vote for" ..boil on little froggies...


Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 1:13 a.m.

@Mike, Professors at U-M are not unionized, and are not asking to be unionized. This story is not about professors and unions at all, in fact. But thanks for playing.

Mike K

Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

Why do professors need to unionize. Who is their "enemy"? Me, you, the students...?


Tue, Apr 3, 2012 : 4:23 a.m.

What are you talking about?

Stephen Landes

Mon, Apr 2, 2012 : 10:49 p.m.

Go ahead Democrat Regents. Just understand that you are likely not helping matters when you want something from the State. Regent Maynard is right: " does no good". Worse, it will likely do harm. The University doesn't like it when the Legislature attempts to tell it how to run its business -- all sorts of independence issues are raised. What makes to University think they have standing to tell the Legislature how to count attendance and votes?