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Anti-Worker Mackinac Center Takes Aim at Univ. of Mich. Graduate Research Assistants

by Clyde Weiss  |  August 03, 2011

It wasn’t enough that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan – the nation’s largest state-based, right-wing “think tank” – worked against the efforts of 40,000 home-based child care providers to organize with AFSCME/UAW affiliate Child Care Providers Together Michigan. Now, Mackinac wants to block graduate research assistants at the University of Michigan from organizing a union.

Mackinac wants to invalidate the 6-2 vote this spring by the University of Michigan Board of Regents to allow research assistants to organize. The board-passed resolution states:

“Consistent with the University of Michigan’s proud history of strong positive and mutually productive labor relations, the Board of Regents supports the rights of Graduate Student Research Assistants, whom we recognize as employees, to determine for themselves whether they choose to organize.”

The research assistants, who want representation of a union over pay, benefits and workload, should have that right. But the Mackinac Center is challenging that resolution through a complaint with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

That’s no surprise, since its financial backers include right-wing, anti-worker billionaire Charles G. Koch and a foundation operated by the children of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, whose company has consistently fought the efforts of its own workers to organize a union.

“Given the center's history of attacking the right of public employees to bargain collectively and the freedom of academic inquiry, it is questionable that the center’s actions are in the best interest of any student, faculty member or employee of the University of Michigan” the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) says in a statement. GEO’s Michigan affiliate is part of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents graduate employees at universities across the country.

AFSCME backs the efforts to these courageous graduate research assistants to form a union. It is a basic American right that should be protected. Read more about AFSCME’s campaign to preserve those rights here.

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