A labor group's use of college students to stage Friday night protests outside an Italian restaurant in Dearborn could cost the University of Michigan millions in taxpayer funding.
The Detroit-based Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan settled its 15-month labor dispute with upscale restaurant chain Andiamo in March 2011. Now House Republicans are trying to compel U-M to drop its association with the group as part of strings attached to $4.7 million in new state funding.
Tucked in the House education budget at the request of the Michigan Restaurant Association is a provision prohibiting universities from collaborating with "a non-profit worker center whose documented activities include coercion through protest, demonstration or organization against a Michigan business."
University professors nationwide are decrying the provision as an infringement of academic freedom, while Republican legislators say universities shouldn't be promoting free speech protests against businesses that pay taxes that support university operations.