MI Judge Clears Way For Grad Student Union: Ben James of Law360 ($$) writes that last week, a federal judge sitting in Michigan found that a Michigan state law forbidding graduate assistants at public universities from forming labor unions violated state law. In particular, the judge reasoned that the anti-union law violated a clause in the Michigan constitution that is designed to protect citizens against "surreptitious legal activity." The students also successfully argued that the language barring graduate unions, contained in a bill concerning "emergency management powers," was a sort of legislative bait-and-switch that could not stand.
“By importing language from another bill, the Legislature reincarnated HB 4246 as the legislative vehicle to prevent a particular group of employees from qualifying as public employees at the university level — a subject that has nothing to do with an emergency manager’s powers in the local government and school district context,” the decision said, concluding that PA 45 was invalid because it had been enacted in violation of the Michigan Constitution.
A spokeswoman for the Michigan Attorney General said that his office was considering its options. This ruling is significant not only because it opens the doors to graduate student unions, but also because it follows on the heels of NYU’s decision to collectively bargain with a group of graduate students as well. While it is too early to know for sure, this new wave of graduate student unionizing could signal a sea-change for both public and private universities.
UAW Vote At VW Plant Set For This Week: Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press reports that workers at Volkswagen’s auto plant in Chattanooga, TN will vote this week on whether to join the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. The vote is being closely watched by the labor community, particularly because a positive result could open up the traditionally union-wary South to organizing campaigns. In contrast, a down vote could bring down other organizing campaigns in Alabama and Mississippi like a house of cards.
The UAW’s president, Bob King, has stated that more than half of the plant’s eligible voters support the union campaign. However, union opponents counter that workers were conned into signing union authorization cards. Regardless, the election is this Wednesday to Friday. Once the results are in, we will make sure to post them here on the blog.
Baystate Hospital Reaches Agreement With MNA: MassLive.com reports that last week, the Massachusetts Nurses Association reached an agreement with Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, MA, effectively ending a protracted contract dispute. The new agreement is set to last for five years and includes a four percent wage increase.