GSRA group against union asks assembly for support

By Claire Hall, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 26, 2011

A representative from Students Against GSRA Unionization — a group of about 400 graduate student research assistants — presented a case against a resolution that will come before MSA next week concerning the support of GSRA unionization.

GSRA Stephen Raiman told the assembly that unionization doesn’t make sense for GSRAs. He explained that while graduate student instructors receive a stipend to teach while they complete their theses, GSRAs also generally get compensated for the same research they conduct to earn their degrees because their research and educational roles are indistinct from one another.

GSRA unionization, which is supported by the Graduate Employees Organization, is opposed by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, which upheld a 1981 ruling in August that said GSRAs are students before staff.

Still, GSRAs who want to unionize wish to conduct an election to see how many total GSRAs are in favor of unionization. At MSA’s Oct. 11 meeting, members of GEO spoke to the assembly and asked for its support of GSRA unionization.

Raiman pointed out that unionization would make membership compulsory for all GSRAs, requiring them to pay $400 in annual fees. He argued that the benefits the union would provide either don’t apply to GSRAs — such as hours and promotion requirements — or are already provided by Rackham Student Government, like advocacy and mediation.

“(GSRAs) currently have the right to form a union in which membership is voluntary with no election required,” Raiman said. “The only reason they need to hold an election is to force all GSRAs into the bargaining unit and become the sole bargaining agent for all GSRAs.”

Center for Campus Involvement introduced before MSA

University officials introduced the creation of the Center for Campus Involvement — a merger between the University Unions Arts and Programs and Student Activities and Leadership — to the Michigan Student Assembly last night.

Speaking before the assembly, Susan Pile, director of the University Unions Arts and Programs, explained that the two offices joined together out of a desire to rethink student involvement on campus.

“Part of this process was to streamline work for students to improve student involvement on campus, but also to really to enhance University Unions and University life,” Pile said.

The new center will be divided into two teams — one focusing on student organizations and the other focusing on programs, according to SAL Assistant Director Jimmy Brown, who will lead the student organizations team in the future.

Pile said that entire staff is trained to handle issues arising from both teams.

“While we have these two sort of functional areas within the team, we’ve been very intentional about the cross-development of the staff so that if you come into either of the offices, we can be a resource across multiple areas,” Pile said.

For the time being, the center will remain divided between the second and fourth floors of the Union, where SAL and UUAP are currently located, respectively. But officials hope to transfer both organizations to the second floor within the next year.

The transition into the unified center will officially take place on Nov. 1, Brown said.

MSA votes to alter operating procedures

The assembly passed a resolution by a margin of 25 to one that defines speaking rights for the community concerns portion of the agenda.

The new definition lays out a system for determining violations and associated penalties for speakers. Despite the approval of the resolution, some assembly members had concerns about the wording of the resolution and two community members voiced their disapproval.

The resolution was in response to past incidents in which community speakers’ comments offended members of the assembly.

Correction Appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Center for Campus Involvement as the Center for Student Involvement. A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated that GSRAs don't get compensated for their research. A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated which organization wants to conduct an election to measure GSRAs' support of unionization.