New law bans student researchers from unionizing

New law bans student researchers from unionizing

Summary: Student graduate research assistants have been barred from unionizing in public universities. Is this acceptable?

TOPICS: Government, Legal

Should graduate research students be able to form unions, or is the move to prevent such efforts a case of government overreach?

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan signed a controversial bill this week which bars graduate research assistants in public universities from forming any type of union. It came into being after a group of research assistants based at the University of Michigan attempted to unionize.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, specifies that graduate student research assistants are not public employees -- as it relates to collective bargaining -- and therefore are not entitled to form such entities. The new law clarifies that the students are not public employees that can be recognized by the state Public Employment Relations Act.

As the research assistants are primarily there to learn and earn advanced degrees rather than a wage, they have become excluded.

In comparison, opposing Democrats believe that the bill attacks collective bargaining rights. In addition, groups critical of the move say that it is part of a governmental body overstepping the mark; and does nothing except further restrict student speech.

The Republican governor said that these research assistants are students, first and foremost. To consider them as public employees with union representation would shift the 'critical relationship' between students and teachers to its detriment. Snyder said in a release:

"While graduate student research assistants provide valuable efforts for universities, they are students first and foremost. Considering them to be public employees with union representation would alter the nature of the critical relationship between students and teachers, and risk the educational mission of universities."

With such controversy concerning student rights and free speech both on campus and online, it will be interesting to see if other U.S. universities will follow suit.


Topics: Government, Legal

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  • US Politics

    This is probably more about unions: the graduate students are a pawn in a political game. Various Republicans have entered into the legislatures and governorships with the agenda to strip powers from unions, especially the unions of government workers and teachers. While a rationale is provided, to this cynical observer (and member of the other major party), it seems more about neutralizing institutions that generally provides resources to the Democrats at election time.

    Graduate students shouldn't be precluded from unionizing, but I would hope they could get better pay, and leave school with smaller debts, without unions. I know, every collegiate athletic coach making over 200,000 a year gives up half their salary and these released funds go to the graduate students. Did I say cynic? I must have meant naive optimist.
  • So much for the land of the free...

    I hope student researcher can remain the brave in the home thereof...
  • History alert:

    'nuff said.

    Or, rather, the irony of the day... after all, freedom is one generation away from loss, and as far as the working class is concerned, it's a living wage that allows them such freedom. Double-irony.