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Michigan Attorney General files request to stop hearing on U of M grad student unions

U of M GEO
Members of the Graduate Employees Organization picketing on the North Campus of the University of Michigan in 2008. Many University administrators and deans maintain these research assistants are not "employees."

Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a request with the state Supreme Court to stop a hearing about whether certain graduate students at the University of Michigan can unionize.

But the hearing was held today despite the request, and is scheduled to continue tomorrow.

At issue is whether U of M graduate student research assistants are considered students, or students and employees. If they’re employees, they have the right to unionize.

Sam Montgomery, president of the Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO), believes research assistants are employees:

"They receive pay, benefits, they pay taxes on their wages, they are eligible for Family Medical Leave Act; they are treated as employees by the University’s own policies."

The U of M Board of Regents last May recognized the group as employees. But the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) found otherwise in a 1981 ruling. GEO wants to use this week’s hearing to overturn that ruling.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a request with the state Supreme Court to stop the hearing, after he was barred from the hearing by the state Court of Appeals.

GEO president Sam Montgomery says Schuette's "intervention is just yet another attempt to cause delay or maybe disruption; and that may be his goal."

The Attorney General's office was unavailable for comment.

Montgomery says there are roughly 2,200 graduate student research assistants at the University of Michigan.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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