Hoping to prevent what they contend to be outsourcing of their jobs to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, University student bus drivers filed a petition with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to form their own union.
“As students we have different needs that aren”t fulfilled by the current contract, which excludes all residual employees,” said LSA senior Cybele Blood, a student bus driver.
In order to secure an election among potential members to consider unionization, state law requires at least one third of potential members to show interest. Ninety percent of the student bus drivers signed union cards. For the motion to pass without employer consent, the MERC would have to approve an employee election, in which the majority of employees eligible to vote would have to vote in favor of unionizing.
A conference call Tuesday commenced MERC”s evaluation process and gave University representatives the opportunity to voice their concerns over the motion to unionize.
“This conference call was the first opportunity for the University to basically play it straight or choose to raise objections,” said Cedric deLeon, president of the Graduate Employees Organization, which has joined the bus drivers” cause.
The University had the option of either consenting to an election or arguing against the motion. Officials stuck with the latter option, stating the drivers have not properly defined the community of interest they are organizing behind.
Communities of interest should encompass all jobs that are similar in pay, hours and working conditions. The question with the student bus drivers” community is whether it is neglecting to include similar University jobs, University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said in a statement.
“It is because of our interest in maintaining productive and fruitful bargaining relationships that [the University] has raised the issue that the organization of only a small fragment of a much larger group of employees is not appropriate,” she said.
deLeon cautioned against making the definition too broad. “A community of interest should not be defined by virtue of the fact that we”re all students rather than the status [of the employee], the kinds of work, the levels of certification, and the different pay scales should be taken into account,” he said.
MERC is expected to reach a decision about the conflicting definitions of a community of interest after an official hearing set for the second week of June.