Coalition of Graduate Workers files lawsuit against UM

10 months 2 weeks 3 days ago May 12, 2016 May 12, 2016 Thursday, May 12 2016 Thursday, May 12, 2016 3:37:00 PM CDT in News
By: Lauren Petterson, KOMU 8 Digital Producer

COLUMBIA - The Coalition of Graduate Workers at the University of Missouri filed a lawsuit Thursday against the University of Missouri Board of Curators stating they are employees of the university and want to be allowed to unionize.

The lawsuit states that CGW believes “graduate workers” are public employees . The lawsuit said graduate workers include graduate assistants, graduate teaching assistants, graduate research assistants, graduate instructors, graduate library assistants and graduate fellows.

In December 2015 and January 2016, CGW requested that the university allow them to hold an election for graduate workers to vote on whether they wanted to be represented exclusively by CGW. In February, the university rejected this request.

In the lawsuit, CGW claimed the University denying CGW the right to unionize violates Article I, Section (?) 29 of the Missouri Constitution of 1945.

In April, CGW held an election with the help of the League of Women Voters. Thirty percent of graduate workers voted in the election. Of that 30 percent, 84 percent of the voters voted for CGW to be their exclusive collective bargaining representative. On May 6, an attorney told the plaintiffs that the university had denied their request for recognition.

In an email to KOMU 8 News, MU Spokesperson Christian Basi said the university and graduate students need "legal clarity" before recognizing graduate students’ right to organize. Basi said "graduate students are fundamentally students."

According to the lawsuit, one plaintiff tried wrote to the university’s Chief of Staff so there would be communication between Interim UM System President Mike Middleton.

The plaintiffs representing CGW are Connor Lewis, Eric Scott, David L. Elliott, Mark Nicholais, Joseph Dean Moore and Doug Valentine. They all fall under their definition of “graduate workers.”

"Accordingly, the University of Missouri will not consider the graduate students’ vote binding and requires legal guidance through the applicable appeals process," Basi said.

[Editor's note: this story has been updated to include a statement from the University of Missouri.]

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