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The Michigan Daily, 2014-09-02

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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MERC ruling upholds GSRA's
ineligibility for unionization

Grad. students express concerns
over design of new 'U' housing

Decision follows
long legal battle by
University research
assistants, state
Summer Managing News Editor
JUNE 20,2014 - In a decision
issued Thursday afternoon, the
Michigan Employment Relations
Commission ruled that graduate
student research assistants at the
University are not public employ-
ees, and thus are not eligible to
The ruling, which was made
at the commission's June 10
meeting, was the culmination
of a almost three year long legal
debate on the issue.
The commission found that
University GSRAs are not eligible
to unionize because there was
not significant enough evidence
to prove that their situation had
changed since 1981, when MERC
ruled that the work GSRAs did
primarily benefited themselves,
not the University, rendering
them not public employees and
thus not eligible to be unionized
as a collective group.
"The record establishes that
in in 2012, as in 1981, a GSRA
appointment closely tracks a
student's own specific academic
goals," the decision read. "Almost
all GSRAs seek out projects in
order to find a subject that will
serve as the basis in some way for
their dissertations."
All hearings for the case were
held before administrative law
judge Julia C. Stern in February
of 2012.
This connection between
work and academics was the
prime determinant in classifying
GSRAs as non-public employees,
as well as the close relationship
typically observed between fac-

ulty and GSRA, according to the
The MERC case was brought
by University union Graduate
Employees' Organization and
the state affiliate of the American
Federation of Teachers in April of
2011. It represented the groups'
second try to re-open the issue
following an initial, unsuccessful
petition for consideration. The
case was temporarily stalled for
almost two years up until earlier
this year after the state legislature
passed an amendment to Public
Act 45 banning GSRA unioniza-
tion in 2012, which was declared
unconstitutional in February.
The unionization efforts were
not contested by the University
following a 6-2 vote in favor of it
by the Board of Regents in 2011,
though many top administrators,
including University president
Mary Sue Coleman, expressed
opposition to the idea.
In a statement Friday morning,
GEO said they withdrew their
original 2011 petition on the issue
on June 9th, 2014, one day before
the commission's meeting, and
called MERC's decision to rule on
it the demonstration of an anti-
labor agenda.
In reaction to the decision,
they characterized it as inaccu-
rate and unfair to GSRAs.
"GSRAs do work, they have a
supervisor, they have to report
to the lab every day, they pay
taxes, and the University itself
recognizes GSRAs as workers,"
the statement read. "The work
GSRAs do is vital to the univer-
sity's research enterprise which
now has expenditures well over
a billion dollars a year. To claim
that GSRAs are not university
employees is unjust and unethi-
A spokesman for MERC said
the decisions speak for them-
selves in regards to why the case
was ruled on after the original
petition was pulled.

AFT Michigan President
David Hecker expressed similar
sentiments in an interview Fri-
day morning. He said though they
weren't surprised by the decision
because the current commis-
sion was all appointed by Gover-
nor Rick Snyder, who along with
other state Republicans has not
supported GSRA unionization
efforts, it was a clear, disappoint-
ing case of an outside body inter-
fering with an employer's own
definition of who its employees
"GSRAs are clearly employ-
ees," he said. "The University of
Michigan recognises that."
Hecker said AFT Michigan
will continue working towards
GSRA unionization through col-
laboration with local groups in
the state such as GEO, as well as
other advocacy efforts. He added
that they are not currently con-
sidering submitting a third peti-
tion to MERC.
Stephen Raiman, founder of
Students Against GSRA Union-
ization, which filed an amicus
brief against unionization in the
case and was active in earlier
debates around the issue, said ina
statement Thursday evening that
the organization was happy to see
the issue finally resolved, and to
know that GSRAs could continue
their research without fear of
outside influences.
"We are pleased that MERC
has decided to keep political
interests out of academia, and
allow academic decisions to be
made by academics," the state-
ment read.
Michigan Attorney General
Bill Schuette (R) and former Uni-
versity GSRA Melinda Day, who
was active in earlier proceedings,
also filed amicus briefs on the
case in opposition to unioniza-
Read the rest of this story, and
more, at MichiganDailycom

of Bi
uate s
ing, s
of th
cone 1
for st
new r
of ab
ate st
and c
up or

ans for graduate Lawyers Club was also funded
by a donation from Munger.
idence met with The design for the graduate
residence involves most rooms
uestions about forming blocks of seven single
bedrooms with personal bath-
cost rooms, with all seven tenants
sharing a common kitchen, liv-
y WILL GREENBERG ing area and dining area. Despite
Daily StaffReporter the enthusiastic pitch, students
questioned the layout and prob-
PT. 11, 2013 - After the able cost of the rooms.
ement over University alum Concerns focused on the
en Ross's record-breaking seven-room design, with several
:ion to the Ross School students expressing concerns
usiness and the Athletic about the community-living
rtment, Charles Munger's style and audience members say-
donation received more ing the graduate lifestyle is dif-
a little scrutiny from grad- ferent than the undergraduate
tudents Wednesday. residence-hall experience.
a forum hosted by Rack- Several of the graduate stu-
Student Government at dents saidthe major selling point
ate school's flagship build- for the graduate residence hall
tudents heard from some should be price competitiveness.
e University's top admin- The rough estimate of $1,000
ion about the upcoming per month for the residence
ruction of the Munger Res- hall is significantly higher than
e Hall. The project will be many other housing options in
d by a $100-million dona- Ann Arbor.
from Charles Munger, a "When you're still working
ersity alum and vice chair- from, in a lot of cases, a research
of real-estate giant Berk- stipend or something like that,
Hathaway. Munger also you have to be pretty frugal
:ed $10 million for graduate with what you're spending on
vships. housing," said Michael Hand, a
G President Phillip Sac- Rackham student and RSG rep-
facilitated the forum as E. resentative.
:er Harper, vice president Saccone said the cost and
udent affairs; Henry Baier, room-complex design were the
iate vice president for facil- primary concerns he received
and operations; Deanna from an online forum and other
y, associate director for graduate students he'd spoken
ing and design at the Uni- with. He added that he was dis-
:y; and Linda Newman, appointed by the limited student
r director for university involvement in the planning
ng, made their pitch for the of the dormitory - which is
esidence hall to the group unlikely to see major reshaping,
out 30 disenchanted gradu- according to Baier and Harper.
udents. Harper has hosted one prelimi-
ier described the plan's nary planning session with a
asis on community spaces four-person student advisory
ooperative living due to an board and assisted in a larger
used need for group work focus group of about forty stu-
s as graduate programs dents weighing in on the design.
for further collaboration "We're just really concerned
g students. While the pre- that the project might not be
rs didn't bring a mock- going in the right direction and,
r blueprints of the plans, ultimately, we're trying to help,"
e-and-after photos of the Saccone said. "We're really here
rsity Lawyers Club were just because we feel that the
as an example of past grad- people who have been involved
housing renovations. The in this project perhaps have had

alittle bit of a'group-think' men-
tality and could use a little bit of
outside sourcing."
Harper said the residence hall
will not be for everyone, calling
the design 'experimental.' Harp-
er said Munger Residence Hall
intends to cater to students in a
variety of graduate programs.
However, the residence hall will
not be suitable for graduate stu-
dents with families and children.
Harper stressed repeatedly
in response to suggestions for
plan changes from the audience
that she and the administration
had to remain within the wishes
of Munger's vision for the resi-
dence hall, as he continues to be
deeply involved with the plan-
ning process.
"If this were 'just us' and
the funding were 'just us,' we
would have some different
kinds of options," Harper said
in response to a student's sug-
gestion to lower costs by elimi-
nating some of the costlier room
features proposed. "But I think
when you are in partnership
... you make some agreements
about what you're going to offer,
then we have to honor those
In an interview after the
forum, Harper and Baier both
said they expect the residence
hall to be highly successful,
despite mixed reactions from
"It has this wonderful com-
bination of your own privacy
- your own room, your own
bathroom, your own study space
- and then you come out and you
have this fabulous living space,"
Harper said. "What it feels like is
you get to be at home when you
want, sort of in your space, and
then you can be in a kind of'cof-
fee shop' if you will with people
that you know and like."
Harper said there would like-
ly be opportunity for students to
choose roommates, though there
is currently no plan for room
assignment or other logistics,
like parking.
R Read the rest of thisstory, and
more, at MichiganDaily.com

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