Major Attack on Academic Freedom and Labor Studies in Michigan

by   Martin Kich

Martin Kich

Martin Kich

In the Michigan Senate, the Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee included in its budget proposal a major financial penalty against any public college or university that teaches a labor-related course or offers a labor-studies program.

Michigan State University has been considering an agreement to adopt a portion of programming from the National Labor College. A spokesperson for the university said in testimony before the subcommittee: “’We do also provide training for other groups, business groups, others on the other side of the aisle for how to work with unions on the management side. We also teach de-certification of unions as well.’”

Apparently the state senators found that testimony insufficiently reassuring, for the proposed legislation imposes a sort of draconian neutrality on the topic of labor issues by prohibiting any courses and programs, existing or new, that either advocate or criticize labor unions.

Specifically, SB 768 prohibits “the encouragement or discouragement of union organizing of employees, including, but not limited to, participating with any business or union, or group of businesses or unions, in hosting, sponsoring, administering, or in any way facilitating an academy, seminar, class, course, conference, or program that provides instruction, in whole or in part, in techniques for encouraging or discouraging employees in regard to union organizing.”

The bill specifies a $500,000 cut in state funding for Michigan State and, in an apparent attempt to defuse some of the backlash, reallocates the $500,000 to Native American initiatives.

The AAUP Committee on Academic Freedom will have much more to say on this legislation in the coming week.

 Martin Kich is the president of the Wright State University chapter of AAUP, which includes two bargaining units representing a total of about 600 faculty. He is also the vice-president of the Ohio Conference of AAUP, a member of the executive committee of AAUP’s national Collective Bargaining Congress (AAUP-CBC) and  chair of the Ohio Conference’s Communication Committee.  Posted initially to the Academe Blog [http://academeblog.org/]

 

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