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U-M Grad Student Claims She Lost Job Over Union Effort

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Students walk across the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. (Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Students walk across the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. (Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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ANN ARBOR (AP) – A University of Michigan graduate student claims that she lost her job after supporting efforts to unionize graduate student research assistants.

Jennifer Dibbern lost her research funding and was kicked out of her academic program at the Ann Arbor school, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday. She said she wants to highlight a need to protect research assistants.

“I lost my job because I was openly supportive of the union,” she told the newspaper. “They are essentially prohibiting me from a career in my chosen field.”

School spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the issue is an academic matter that the school is prohibited from discussing publicly because it involves an academic record. The school, however, disputes the claims.

While it can’t discuss the case, “we believe certain of the union’s factual claims are unfounded, including the allegation that the student was terminated from a GSRA appointment,” he said in a statement. “The university is not aware of an academic grievance or an unfair labor practice charge being filed in this matter.”

Dibbern’s work was in the College of Engineering.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission in August affirmed a 1981 decision that bars research assistants from banding together.

There’s an ongoing dispute about the issue, and some research assistants working with the Graduate Employees Organization want the ruling overturned. Some research assistants are against unionization.

Dibbern also serves as the treasurer of the GEO, the union representing graduate student instructors and staff assistants.

Last May, University of Michigan regents voted to allow research assistants to form a union. The state labor commission took action after an objection was filed by the Midland-based Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.

The commission has assigned the issue to an administrative judge for a hearing, but no date has been set.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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