Education, Labor — February 5, 2014 at 3:42 pm

BREAKING: Federal court rules that Republican law banning graduate student unions in Michigan is unconstitutional


Score one for the good guys

Today a United States District Court ruled that Republican legislation signed into law by Governor Snyder in March of 2012 is unconstitutional. The ruling says the law prohibiting Graduate Student Research Assistants (GSRA) from forming labor organizations was invalid because it was adopted in violation of the Michigan Constitution. The decision will open the door for GSRAs in the State of Michigan to decide if they wish to be represented by a union.

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Michigan President David Hecker released a statement saying, “This is yet another example of Governor Snyder and the Republican-controlled legislature ignoring the rules to advance their own anti-worker political ideology.”

“We’re gratified the judge ruled that the law targeting GSRAs’ rights to organize is unconstitutional. We still firmly believe that GSRAs are workers entitled to protections under the law, including the right to have a union should they decide to organize,” said Andrea Jokisaari, a GSRA in the Materials Science and Engineering Department and the Chair of GEO’s GSRA Organizing Committee.

The Republican law was enacted to stop an election by Graduate Student Research Assistants at the University of Michigan. They amended the legislation that became Public Act 45 of 2012 to say that GSRAs are not employees and, therefore, not covered by the Michigan Public Employment Relations Act. The court held in their decision today that the manner in which the law was rushed through the Michigan Legislature violated the “title-object” clause of the Michigan Constitution, which forbids legislation which includes numerous disparate matters. According to opponents of the law, the proposal that became PA 45 was never intended to deal with GSRA since the bill’s original intent related to the powers of an Emergency Manager.

The suit that produced this result was filed by the AFT-affiliated Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) and its member Christie Toth. GEO was joined in the litigation by the Regents of the University of Michigan who intervened and supported the arguments of GEO.