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Governor signs bill clarifying role of graduate student research assistants

Tuesday, March 13, 2012
LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder today signed legislation clarifying that graduate student research assistants are not public employees as recognized by the state Public Employment Relations Act.

The act, also known as PERA, defines a public employee as someone who holds a position by employment or appointment in state government, in the government of a political subdivision in the state, in a public school or in any other branch of public service.

House Bill 4246, sponsored by state Rep. Al Pscholka, adds an exception to PERA by clarifying that the position of graduate student research assistant at universities does not fit the definition of a public employee because they primarily are in school to learn from their professors and earn advanced degrees rather than to earn a wage. Because they are not considered public employees, graduate research assistants are not entitled to union representation or collective bargaining rights.

"While graduate student research assistants provide valuable efforts for universities, they are students first and foremost," Snyder said. "Considering them to be public employees with union representation would alter the nature of the critical relationship between students and teachers, and risk the educational mission of universities."

The bill is Public Act 45 of 2012.

Visit for more information on the bill.