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University of Missouri appeals ruling recognizing union

Lawyers for the University of Missouri have appealed a Boone County judge’s ruling in a case over graduate student workers’ rights, reiterating in court documents that the students are not workers.

“Graduate Workers are students receiving financial aid, not ’employees’ in the constitutional sense,” the university’s appellate court lawyers wrote in the appeal.

Judge Jeff Harris ruled in June against the UM System and Board of Curators, saying that the Coalition of Graduate Workers is an employees’ union and that the university is legally required to engage in collective bargaining with the group. Graduate students voted to make the coalition their exclusive collective bargaining representative in April 2016. The coalition formed to advocate for issues such as health benefits and higher pay for graduate students who are paid to teach or do research.

In its appeal filed last week in Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals, the university argues that Harris erred in ruling the students should be considered workers under state law and that the election that designated the coalition as a bargaining representative was flawed.

The university’s lawyers wrote the provision of the Missouri Constitution cited by the coalition in its petition to hold an election only gives individual employees the right to organize and bargain collectively and that the trial court erred in ordering the university to bargain with the group. They also argue “giving legal effect to an election conducted with the involvement of the University is impermissible in that” the university is entitled to help set up and run the election.

The university also argued that too little information about the election was presented in circuit court for the judge to rule as he did.

No hearings have been set in the appeal.

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