Michigan House Republicans Pass Bill That Strips Grad. Students of Right to Unionize

Governor Rick Snyder has repeatedly claimed he has no interest in starting a Right-To-Work war in Michigan. Whether he has been telling the truth may become very clear, very soon.

The Michigan House quickly approved SB 0971, legislation that bans the unionization of graduate student research assistants (GSRA) at public universities. There was no debate on readings of the bill or proposed amendments to it. In essence, SB 0971 was sped through the House without discussion.

SB 0971, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Republican Randy Richardville, would make it clear that GSRAs are not public employees and not subject to collective bargaining rights. The bill is in direct response to a unionization effort at the University of Michigan (U-M).

Bonnie Halloran is the President of the University of Michigan lecturers’ faculty union, LEO, which represents about 1,400 full-time and part-time non-tenured faculty on the University of Michigan’s three campuses.

Halloran had this to say about the passage of SB 0971 by the Michigan House of Representatives:

This bill is a direct assault by Republican legislators on graduate student researchers’ right to form a union.

The passage of this bill is an egregious attack on collective bargaining rights in Michigan. It singled out one job classification for exclusion under PERA, the state labor law which oversees the rights of unionized workers.

Further, it opens the floodgates for the exclusion of other job classifications under PERA. Will part-time faculty now be excluded? Or Graduate Teaching Assistants? Or all public employees?

In early February 2012 311 University of Michigan tenure-track and tenured science faculty, collectively paid upwards of $45 million dollars per year, signed a letter of protest against the unionization of their research assistants.

The bill sped through the Senate and a House committee.

There was no discussion of the bill on the House floor on second or third reading today. The item was not initially on the agenda.

Democrat Vicki Barnett, who represents Farmington Hills, said she was not allowed to speak on her amendment to the bill, which was the same amendment she proposed in committee.

“It is surprising that one would squelch debate under those circumstances,” she said, citing the unexpected appearance of the bill on the agenda and it’s move from second to third reading in one session.

Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas asked for a record roll call vote on immediate effect for the bill. That motion was passed for the day by a voice vote.

The bill now goes to the Senate for final approval. It is expected to be passed. 

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1 Comment for “Michigan House Republicans Pass Bill That Strips Grad. Students of Right to Unionize”

  1. um grad student

    You know, it wouldn’t hurt if you did some research of your own before writing such a blatant, party-line editorial. This fight isn’t about Democrats vs. Republicans. Its about GSRAs fighting back against the vast political machine of the AFT – now there’s your dramatic story. The AFT / GEO attempted very similar dirty tricks to try to unionize GSRAs without a vote before finally crying “Oh, come on. Let’s be democratic and have a vote.”

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