Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

On research assistants

On research assistants

This is one of those complicated issues.  The GEO is trying to organize a vote by University of Michigan research assistants on joining a union. It seems to be a bit of an issue at the university: the regents have voted in favour, large chunks of the faculty and administration are against, and there are students on both sides.

But now comes the state legislature, ramming through a bill to short-circuit the entire process by declaring RA’s not to be employees.  (Never mind that they do necessary and highly skilled work for the university and get paid for it; apparently they should have less legal status than interns.)

I was a union member more than once during my academic career, but never by choice, and yeah that never quite passed the smell test. But this…why is this bill being rammed through so quickly? Why is this bill even necessary? Why the opposition to voting on union membership?

Any why, when I did deeper, am I so annoyed by the arguments against RA unionization by faculty and administration, which seem to boil down to “RA’s should feel happy to participating in the glorious research process, which is higher and more dignified than mere grubby employment in ways which we won’t bother to describe”?