RA Unionization in Michigan: The Empire Strikes Back

by Henry on February 26, 2012

This isn’t funny at all – the Republican state legislature in Michigan is trying to forestall a vote on RA unionization at the University of Michigan by passing legislation declaring that RAs are not public employees, and hence have no right to organize. A Senate bill was introduced on February 17 and swiftly passed. It is now before the Michigan House.

Introduced by state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R–Monroe), the legislation will restrict graduate students from achieving status as public employees, thereby preventing them from claiming collective bargaining rights and obtaining representation from a union. Yesterday’s vote comes just one day after it had passed through the Senate Government Operations Committee, and the bill will now move on to the state House of Representatives. The vote also comes on the heels of an emergency meeting by the University’s Board of Regents to pass a resolution in opposition to the bill. The regents voted 6-2, along party lines, to approve the resolution and instructed Cynthia Wilbanks, the University’s vice president of governmental affairs, to garner support among state legislators to vote against the bill. Bob McCann, communications director for Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D–East Lansing), said Senate Republicans approved the bill so quickly — it was introduced last week — to avoid interference from negative public feedback.

The negative public feedback bit is where you come in. I don’t know how many CT readers are Michigan residents – I strongly encourage those who are to contact their state level representatives, whether Democratic or Republican, politely but firmly telling them what a horrible idea this is. I’d also be grateful if those who have useful information (i.e. relevant email addresses of political figures) or other helpful suggestions could leave them in comments. Time is of the essence; I also get the impression, perhaps mistaken, that graduate student union have only very limited resources to fight this kind of fight (they don’t have the direct political connections to local policy makers that other collective actors have. So please do what you can, and spread the word.

Update – Patrick O’Mahen supplies some useful phone numbers in comments.

Mark Ouimet District 52 (517) 373-0828
Rick Olsen District 55 (888) 345-2849
Pat Somerville District 23 (517) 373-0855
Nancy Jenkins District 55 (855) 292-0002
Kevin Cotter District 99 (517) 373-1789

Jase Bolger is the Speaker of the House and is always useful to bother on these issues (as he’s a veto point and all): (517) 373-1787

Finally, governor Rick Snyder can be reached at (517) 373-3400.

{ 5 comments }

1

Don K 02.26.12 at 5:37 am

Well, I can give it a try, but I have to tell you my local state Rep is a standard-issue right-wing Rep, having had a previous career as a standard-issue right-wing columnist for the Detroit News, who is term-limited out this year, so he really doesn’t give a fig about public opinion.

2

Enda H 02.26.12 at 6:26 am

You can find out your local representatives by putting in your five-digit zip code here – http://action.aft.org/getLocal.jsp – and you don’t need to enter the Zip+4 as is suggested.

3

Patrick O'Mahen 02.26.12 at 8:43 am

I’m actually a member of the Graduate Employees Organization,

You can find your Michigan House District here:

http://www.house.mi.gov/district_maps/HOUSE%20MASTER.pdf

and a list of representatives here

http://www.house.mi.gov/mhrpublic/frmRepList.aspx

We encourage all Michigan readers to call their representative (phone calls are more effective than e-mails), as we have a steep hill to climb (we need 12 to swing over to stop this), but here’s a list of some potentially vulnerable Republicans who might be willing to listen to reason:

Mark Ouimet (R) District 52 (517) 373-0828
Rick Olsen (R) District 55 (888) 345-2849
Pat Somerville (R) District 23 (517) 373-0855
Nancy Jenkins (R) District 55 (855) 292-0002
Kevin Cotter (R) District 99 (517) 373-1789

Jase Bolger is the Speaker of the House and is always useful to bother on these issues (as he’s a veto point and all): (517) 373-1787

Finally, governor Rick Snyder can be reached at (517) 373-3400.

Politely state your name and firmly tell them you are against the passage of the House’s version of Senate Bill 0981, which prevents RAs from having collective bargaining rights.

The bill is slated for a committee hearing on Wednesday morning.
Thank you for your help!

4

Patrick O'Mahen 02.26.12 at 8:52 am

One other thing:

On the last thread discussing this issue, several of you mentioned that you were academics who worked at universities at which RAs were unionized and the world hasn’t ended. We’re looking from public statements from individuals like you to calm the nerves of some of our faculty members who are either afraid of the unknown or are having their heads filled with outrageous tall tales by senior administrators. If you are interested in chatting, I can be contacted at omahenpatrick (AT) gmail .

Again, thanks to Henry and all of you for your time blog space, enlightened discussion and support.

5

Matthew Ernest 02.26.12 at 8:54 pm

Trying to think of unintended consequences of quickly passed legislation…

Back in the day when I was a graduate student I received a W-2 from my school for the money I received. If these students in Michigan received W-2s but they are declared non-employees that are not being paid wages, does that constitute a fraudulent federal tax filing? Are there tax implications of paying non-wages to non-employees? Are the students owed a return of workers comp and unemployment insurance payments?

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