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Graduate employees at MSU negotiating for more benefits

The Graduate Employee Union and Michigan State University are currently negotiating a new contract that would expand union rights to employees other than teaching assistants. These negotiations follow the 2012 bill signed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder that left most graduate employees unable to unionize or bargain for workplace protections.

The new contract put forth by the union would extend benefits currently provided to all graduate employees. It would replace the current contract, which ends on May 15. The GEU's president believes MSU will approve the request because it does not want to create a multitiered employment structure with graduate teaching assistants getting different treatment from other graduate employees.

In essence, all graduate employees would have the same rights and benefits. This is important because graduate employees often change jobs. Many move from teaching assistant positions to research assistant positions. The new contract will allow them to make the move without worrying about, or compromising on, the benefits they receive.

Since its inception in 2001, the Graduate Employee Union has negotiated four employment contracts. The GEU was created primarily to represent graduate employees and assert their workplace rights. It is one of 11 unions with representation on campus. The union provides protection to employees in terms of salaries, benefits, compensation, insurance and job workload, among other issues. The GEU is currently addressing four main issues: yearly salary increases, tuition fee increases, affordable health-care coverage and improved antidiscrimination contract language.

Any graduate employee who believes he or she has been deprived of benefits guaranteed by the current contract should seek advice from a legal representative. In most cases, employment law attorneys can assist with all job-related matters and provide solid legal advice that can maximize the chances of successful legal action that may be necessary to secure union-guaranteed employment rights.

Source: StateNews.com, "Graduate Employee Union seeks to expand union rights," Ray Wilbur, Mar. 25, 2015

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