The Michigan Employment Relations Commission voted 2-1 Tuesday to let an administrative judge determine if GSRAs are allowed to form a union.

At its monthly meeting this morning in Detroit, MERC sought to resolve two issues regarding GSRA unionization — the employment status of GSRAs and whether to grant motions to intervene filed by The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

A hearing in front of an administrative judge could happen as early as next month, according to a post on GEO’s Facebook page.

The judge’s decision will rely primarily on whether or not GSRAs are considered employees or students. If the judge rules that the research assistants are employees — overturning a 1981 MERC ruling that classifies GSRAs as students — they’d be allowed to unionize.

Graduate Employees’ Organization President Sam Montgomery said in a statement released to The Michigan Daily that the union was content with MERC’s decision.

“We’re gratified that we’re going to have the opportunity to prove that the GSRAs
are employees with the right to vote,” Montgomery said in the statement.

MERC also denied Schuette’s Nov. 29 motion to intervene to fight against unionization. A motion to intervene filed by The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation on July 28 on behalf of GSRAs opposed to unionization was also dismissed.

Stephen Raiman, founder of Students Against GSRA Unionization , said only the union and the employer are allowed to present at MERC hearings, which is why traditionally an outside party, like the attorney general, would not be allowed to intervene.

Raiman said the exclusion of the motions was unfair because there was nobody at the meeting to advocate on behalf of the parties that oppose unionization since the University and GEO agree that GSRAs should be classified as employees

“GEO and the Board of Regents have successfully argued their case before MERC. with nobody else able to speak in the court and we find that to be unfair and we find this to be a violation of our rights to due process,” Raiman said.

The University’s Board of Regents voted 6-2 on May 19 to support the classification of GSRAs as employees — making it the University’s official position to support categorizing GSRAs as employees.

Still, at the meeting in May, University President Mary Sue Coleman disagreed with the board and expressed her apprehension about granting GSRAs the right to unionize, saying that research assistants are students and not employees.

“A student’s performance as a research assistant is really indistinguishable from his or her progress as a graduate student,” Coleman said in her remarks at the meeting.

This is a developing story. Check for updates

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