Though it gained a legal victory last month, the Graduate Employees Organization received some bitter news in the new year.

On Friday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a motion with the Michigan 3rd District Court of Appeals seeking to overturn a previous ruling from the Michigan Employment Relations Commission that allowed a judge to determine if graduate student research assistants can unionize. Similarly, Students Against GSRA Unionization, a group of GSRA’s organized against the unionization, also filed a motion seeking to revoke the ruling.

On Dec. 13, MERC dismissed motions by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation on behalf of students opposed to GSRA unionization and a separate motion by the attorney general. Both motions sought to allow the groups to intervene and advocate at MERC hearings against the proposed unionization.

Both groups argued that since the University Board of Regents had previously voted to recognize GSRAs as public employees, both parties represented at the hearing would be in favor of unionization. They contended that arguments opposing unionization were therefore excluded from formal hearings.

MERC dismissed the arguments and ordered that the decision to permit the unionization of GSRAs at the University be determined by an administrative judge in late January or early February.

Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation and counsel for Students Against GSRA Unionization said the ongoing issue over whether GSRAs can be considered public employees stems from a 1981 MERC precedent that determined that while graduate student instructors are considered public employees, GSRAs are not.

“The regents cannot change the law,” Wright said. “The law is that only public employees can be subject to mandatory, compulsory unionization. And if they’re not public employees, there’s no vote at all.”

Wright added that while he had been in contact with the attorney general’s office, the two motions were separate. The attorney general’s court filing Friday still echoed many of the same points as the motion filed by Students Against GSRA Unionization and stated that MERC had committed a “substantial and material error of law.”

“The Attorney General has determined that the outcome of the (administrative law judge’s) ruling will have significant impact on the University’s role as an elite research institution, which would detrimentally impact the interests and rights of the State and People of Michigan,” the filing stated.

GEO President Samantha Montgomery wrote in a statement to The Michigan Daily yesterday that GSRAs are public employees and should have the right to unionize.

“While support for our union is strong, we respect that some may disagree,” Montgomery wrote. “They get to vote ‘no,’ but shouldn’t be allowed to hijack a MERC proceeding.”

Stephen Raiman, founder of Students Against GSRA Unionization, wrote in a statement to The Daily on Friday that MERC’s decision was a violation of its rights and the organization deserves to be heard in court.

“MERC made their previous decision after only hearing one side of the argument,” Raiman wrote. “This was a clear violation of our right to due process. We will continue to seek justice despite (the) union’s attempts to silence their opponents.”

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