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Grad student said fired for union support

DETROIT, Jan. 18 (UPI) -- A University at Michigan research assistant who says she was fired over her support of a union spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday.

Rachel Dibbern served as treasurer for the Graduate Employees Organization while the organization worked with a graduate student research assistant group towards unionization. The two groups asked the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to overturn a 1981 ruling that bars graduate student groups from unionizing on the grounds that they are not employees, the Detroit Free Press reported. Earlier this year, the UM Board of Regents officially recognized the groups as employees.

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In August, the groups reached an agreement with administrators. Around this time, Dibbern says that Rachel Goldman, her supervising professor, starting to insinuate via e-mail that Dibbern should give up her efforts, the newspaper reported.

"I realize you have other things going on but an increase in your focus on research is urgently needed," an Aug. 8 e-mail read, the newspaper reported. "This will probably require you to decrease your involvement in non-research [activity]."

Dibbern told the Free Press that she had received praise and awards for her research, and that the GEO was the only other activity she was involved in.

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On Aug. 30, Goldman cut Dibbern's funding. In December, Dibbern was dropped from the engineering department, the newspaper said. She has tried to appeal both decisions, but to no avail.

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