Bill silences voice of graduate research assistants

The latest legislative news provides reasons for supporting the Protect Our Jobs campaign to amend the state constitution and protect our collective bargaining rights.

The voices of both graduate student research assistants and Democratic legislators were silenced last week with the quick passage of SB 971 in both chambers to ban graduate research assistants from unionizing.

The bill was drafted to thwart University of Michigan graduate student research assistants’ efforts to form a union. In 1981, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) ruled that the assistants were students and not public employees, and, therefore, could not unionize. Recently, the assistants appealed to MERC and rather than risk MERC changing its mind, the bill was introduced by Republican legislators.

In anticipation of House Democrats blocking immediate effect of the bill, a roll call vote was called on the measure and then the bill was passed for the day. There must be a vote on immediate effect before the bill can be sent to the governor. That could happen soon since MERC is set to rule on the appeal in the next two weeks.

Democrats are questioning the whole House process since they were not allowed debate on their amendments to the bill.