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Michigan Attorney General aims to delay hearing

By Rayza Goldsmith, Daily News Editor
Published January 31, 2012

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed another motion yesterday in a last-ditch attempt to postpone today’s hearing before an administrative judge to determine the ability of graduate student research assistants to vote on whether they want to unionize.

Yesterday, Schuette filed an emergency motion to stay with the Michigan Supreme Court. The attorney general's move is an attempt to delay the hearing until its conditions have been changed. In addition to the motion, Schuette also appealed a previous ruling made by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission that denied him the right to intervene in the proceedings.

The motion to stay would give the Michigan Supreme Court time to reconsider Schuette’s argument and perhaps allow him to intervene in a future administrative hearing.

Stephen Raiman, founder of Students Against GSRA Unionization, said though he doesn't think the hearing will be pushed back, his group agrees with Schuette's decision to file the motion.

“It’s what lawyers do,” Raiman said. “ … (they) try everything (and) explore every avenue.”

Rackham student Sam Montgomery, president of the Graduate Employees’ Organization, expressed her disappointment with the motion in a statement sent to The Michigan Daily yesterday.

“We view this as another attempt to delay due process and distract from the real intention of the MERC proceedings,” Montgomery wrote. “We believe that GSRAs are employees who have the right to form a union if they so choose.”

Schuette’s initial motion to intervene was denied by MERC due to a requirement stating that the case needs to be contentious for a third-party to intervene, according to the appeal.

According to Raiman, the motion’s filing implies that those opposed to GSRA unionization anticipate that GEO will succeed in the hearing. Raiman added that he anticipates the hearing, which starts today, could last up to three days.

“We do believe that the hearing won’t be fair,” Raiman said. “(There is a) significant unfair advantage to GEO at the hearing, so I do believe that it is proper for us to try to stop the hearing or at least put it on hold until we can be a party at this hearing, until we can have our rights represented at the meeting.”

The motion questions MERC’s Dec. 13 decision to send the GSRA’s case to an administrative judge, given the precedent of a 1981 MERC ruling that stated GSRAs are students, not public employees.

Both Schuette and The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation — on behalf of SAGU — filed appeals with the Michigan Supreme Court.

Raiman said the hearing’s format is unfair because both the University and GEO — the parties who will be presenting in front of the judge — agree that GSRAs should be classified as employees with the right to organize.

Though Schuette, SAGU and others opposed to unionization will have an opportunity to submit evidence at the hearing, they will not be allowed to challenge evidence presented by GEO or cross-examine witnesses called by lawyers by the University or GEO, according to Raiman.

Even if GEO proves successful in the hearing, Raiman said his group will continue fighting.

“If we don’t get the result that we hope … then we’ll have to try our best to run a campaign to win this election, to educate GSRAs to see the hazards of unionization and the costs of unionization.”


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