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U of Missouri Dismissive of Grad Student Unionization Effort

COLUMBIA, Mo. ― The University of Missouri asserts in a court filing that graduate students have no rights to collective bargaining.

And if they do have that right, they are doing it wrong, attorney Michael Kaemmerer wrote in a brief filed last week in Boone County Circuit Court, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

The filing was the university’s official response to a lawsuit filed May 11 by the Coalition of Graduate Workers, which is asking the court to order the four-campus University of Missouri system to recognize that graduate assistants are workers with bargaining rights protected by the state Constitution and to honor a vote held in April selecting the coalition as their union.

Joseph Moore, outreach coordinator for the coalition, said the filing has nothing new in it and that the group “expected them to challenge the election and the makeup of the bargaining unit.”

Graduate assistants have been organizing since the university gave graduate assistants 24-hour notice in August that they would no longer receive health insurance subsidies because of an IRS interpretation of the Affordable Care Act. The university rescinded that decision after student and faculty backlash.

To quiet unrest among graduate assistants, the university also promised increased stipends and to increase the value of tuition waivers.

MU interim Chancellor Hank Foley said Thursday at the Board of Curators’ meeting that the university has committed $6.3 million for the effort.

“Graduate students was another big issue on campus this past year,” Foley said. “We’re taking that off the table. We’re basically saying we are going to give you an increase in graduate student stipends, we’re going to do it this year, we will do it again next year.”

Moore said the promises aren’t enough and that graduate assistants believed the promise they would have health insurance until the university tried to take it away.

“We are fighting for a contract so these promises that are being made are in a legally binding contract so the university can’t renege on their promise,” Moore said.

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