UM System will not recognize graduate worker union

An attorney for the UM System contacted the Coalition of Graduate Workers with the decision Friday, according to a news release.

Following the UM System’s rejection of the Coalition of Graduate Workers’ April 18–19 union authorization election results, CGW will turn to the courts to determine whether it can legally collectively bargain for graduate workers, according to a news release.

CGW Co-Chairman Connor Lewis said CGW plans to file its lawsuit within the next week.

“We have a draft that’s been completed,” Lewis said. “... We’ll have to make one or two adjustments, but it should be filed before the end of finals week.”

The announcement comes after Michael Kaemmerer, an attorney retained by the UM System, contacted CGW leaders Friday. He told them that the UM System would not recognize the results of the election.

Eighty-four percent of graduate workers who voted were in favor of union authorization.

Lewis said CGW also received an email earlier in the day from interim UM System President Mike Middleton that stated the UM System had seen their request for recognition and that legal counsel would be in contact.

According to a contract obtained by The Maneater in April, the UM System hired law firm McCarthy, Leonard & Kaemmerer, L.C. as outside legal counsel to provide advice and representation related to labor relations.

Lewis said he resents the correspondence with legal counsel instead of hearing directly from Middleton.

“That’s an unfortunate message that they’re trying to send that they don’t have the courtesy to talk with us directly, that they have to do it through their legal counsel,” Lewis said.

CGW said in its statement that it was disappointed with UM System leadership.

“By forcing an expensive court battle, rather than exercising their power to voluntarily recognize the representation election’s results, the curators and university system administrators have failed to responsibly steward the public institution with which they have been entrusted,” the statement read.

Days after the election, interim Chancellor Hank Foley was asked by Faculty Council about his thoughts on the election. Despite the election results, he said does not believe they are workers.

“I am not for this union, let me say that,” Foley said at the meeting. “I think that graduate students should be graduate students first and workers second. I don't think they are workers.”

On May 4, Graduate Professional Council passed a resolution in support of the validity of the election results and officially recommended that the UM System voluntarily recognize the election. According to the resolution, GPC will also form an ad-hoc committee to explore if and how it can formalize a relationship with CGW.

Lewis said the email from the UM System’s attorney took a hostile stance toward graduate workers by saying they were not employees and raising questions about the validity of the election process.

“I was really disappointed to get that notice because I was hoping beyond all reason that they would choose to do the right thing and recognize us as they’re fully empowered to do,” he said.

Edited by Claire Mitzel | cmitzel@themaneater.com

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