In a surprise announcement late last night, the University’s Board of Regents announced it would hold a special phone meeting today at 8 a.m.
The regents called the meeting as an emergency action under Regents’ Bylaw 1.01, which permits the group to meet in between its monthly meetings to discuss time-sensitive issues. The meeting was likely called so the board could vote on whether or not it supports a bill introduced last week in the state Senate that would ban graduate student research assistants from unionizing, sources told The Michigan Daily.
According to the Regents’ Bylaws, the meeting required either the University president or three regents to initiate any action and a quorum of five members of the board to affirm the action.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said that because the meeting is considered an emergency action, it is not in violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which requires the regents to notify the public of a meeting at least 18 hours before it is set to take place.
“The way I understand it is that that bylaw does provide for taking action between meetings,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said he was unsure whether or not a meeting like this has been called in the past.
The call is open to the public to listen in from the Fleming Administration Building.
Stephen Raiman, founder of Students Against GSRA Unionization and a Rackham student said the meeting would have a predictable outcome.
“I’d say it’s pretty likely that they will not support this legislation,” he said.
He added that he was disappointed in the fact that the regents would probably vote to oppose the bill.
“That would not be in the best interest of GSRAs or the University,” he said.
The Graduate Employees’ Organization declined to comment on the basis that it did not have enough information to do so.
The meeting is a swift reaction to Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville’s (R–Monroe) introduction of Senate Bill 971 last week, which includes a provision that ensures that GSRAs cannot be classified as public employees and thus denies them collective bargaining rights.
Today, Engineering Prof. Fawwaz Ulaby and Melinda Day, a member of SAGU, are testifying in support of the bill before a Senate committee in Lansing, according to Raiman.
Ulaby received attention last month for starting a petition addressed to the regents, opposing the unionization efforts of the GSRAs.
In addition to today’s emergency meeting, GSRAs are also gearing up for presentations before Administrative Law Judge Julia Stern.
Parties opposed to unionization, such as SAGU and Attorney General Bill Schuette, were granted permission to call witnesses and present evidence before Stern, who will hear testimony today through Friday.
GEO and the University had the opportunity to provide evidence and testimony and cross-examine witnesses at the hearing before the administrative judge that took place earlier this month.
In May, the regents awarded GSRAs with collective bargaining rights in a 6-2 vote. University President Mary Sue Coleman expressed disapproval with the regents’ decision at the time and added that University Provost Philip Hanlon shared her opinion.