August 4, 2011
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On Mackinac Center’s Efforts to Stop Union at University of Michigan
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank, filed a complaint with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to block University of Michigan graduate research assistants from forming a union. The university’s board of regents voted 6-2 earlier this spring to recognize the right of graduate research assistants to organize. The university is currently negotiating with the Graduate Employees' Organization on the definition of the bargaining unit and terms of an election. MERC will process the Mackinac Center’s complaint next week.
WASHINGTON -- Employees should be able to exercise their democratic right to form a union without interference from gadflies and anti-union groups like the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which is intent on denying employees a voice in their workplaces. The University of Michigan graduate research assistants get paid for their work just like any other employees and should be able to form a union.
The University of Michigan Board of Regents has recognized that graduate research assistants are employees performing important and valuable work. MERC should resist the Mackinac Center’s ideologically motivated meddling in workers’ affairs, reject its complaint, and allow the University of Michigan’s graduate research assistants to vote on whether they would like to be represented by the Graduate Employees' Organization.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.