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Judge says UM grad workers union committed unfair labor practice; union to appeal

University of Michigan students walk through the Diag in Ann Arbor.
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

In a decision Friday, administrative law judge David Peltz said the graduate workers union at the University of Michigan committed an unfair labor practice.

The judge said the Graduate Employees’ Organization violated the no-strike clause of its current contract, which expires May 1.

GEO members have been on strike since March 29.

But the decision is not final. It serves as a recommendation to the full Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said the strike has left students’ exams and final grades in jeopardy.

“While the university has worked diligently to ensure that the negative impact felt by students is minimized, it is in the best interest of the entire campus community, especially our undergraduate students, for GEO to stop its strike and return to the classroom,” he said.

GEO Contract Committee Chair Amir Fleischmann confirmed the union will appeal the decision, and issued this statement:

“It is unfortunate that the University is continuing to pursue the legal route rather than taking their ethical obligation to fix the myriad of problems that graduate students face seriously. We will appeal the ALJ's recommended decision to the entire commission, until which time the order is not final. We hope that MERC recognizes that no law or policy can restrict a person's fundamental right to strike, as affirmed by the International Labor Organization('s) five core principles, which the United States is bound by but continuously chooses to ignore. Furthermore, no court can decide to suspend our strike as the decision to strike (or not) is up to the rank-and-file members of our Union.”

Judge David Peltz recommends that the commission issue an order to GEO to "cease and desist from repudiating Article III of its collective bargaining agreement with the University of Michigan by causing, instigating, supporting, or encouraging any strike or work stoppage by employees, including the failure to report for duty or to fully, faithfully, and properly perform the duties of employment; by failing to disavow such action or interference with the operations of the University; and by failing to follow the employee notification provisions in the agreement."

Editor’s note: U of M holds Michigan Radio’s license.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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