Updates

July 15th, 2022: In today’s bargaining session, we discussed the Grievance Procedure, Union Rights, Discipline and Discharge, and Assistantship Contracts. We exchanged counter proposals on each of these articles and more progress has been made on these articles due to our united strength. An example of this is their movement on dues deductions—a normal but important union right that they had refused to include before yesterday’s picket. Unfortunately, UNM’s bargaining team still refuses to acknowledge that withholding an assistantship for a future semester is a form of discharge. We know grad workers are often guaranteed future assistantships, formally and informally, that we plan our lives around. It is crucial that our contract protects workers from this form of termination, as it causes financial insecurity and is often used as a form of retaliation. However, UNM’s bargaining team continues to deny accountability over this issue by arguing it does not constitute a form of discharge that grad workers are protected from in their contract. This is incredibly obtuse, but we will fight to include this definition of discharge in our contract. Our bargaining committee reiterated the importance for a strong non-discrimination article for our members yet, the University’s legal team has not budged on this significant part of the contract. As a collective, it is imperative that we have the ability to protect each of our members. We must continue to push for a strong non-discrimination article and will be planning an action at the start of the Fall semester to put further pressure on UNM’s bargaining team.

In order to build our organizing momentum and plan future actions, we will be holding Contract Support Committee meetings every Thursday at 5:30pm, where we will do task-based work such as phone-banking, social mapping, and action organizing. Our only exception will be the third Thursday of every month which is reserved for General Membership Meetings (GMM), where we will share updates, make announcements, and, if necessary, vote on any motions brought forth. Our next GMM is next Thursday, July 21 at 5:30pm. Please join us as we gear up for upcoming actions, discuss our new office space, and plan for a special election in the Fall semester. If you are interested in helping plan the GMM, please contact Alana Bock at ajbock@unm.edu

Check out the Daily Lobo’s coverage of our picket for stronger non-discrimination protections.


July, 14th 2022: Thank you to everyone who came out to the picket today to show UNM’s negotiating team that graduate workers won’t stand their shameful attempts to resist strong non-discrimination language in our first union contract. At 8am on a Thursday in the hot summer morning, more than 50 UGW members and supporters picketed for over an hour. The University definitely heard us – they had to walk through a crowd of grad workers just to start negotiations. 

At the bargaining table, UNM’s negotiating team called our picket “inappropriate,” but we know that their resistance to a strong non-discrimination article is what is truly inappropriate. Today, we highlighted the hundreds of stories of discrimination and harassment that have been shared with us from our own members to make clear that stronger protections are absolutely NEEDED in our contract. It is horrendous that UNM, a Hispanic-serving and Minority-serving institution, can tell us that they care about their workers while simultaneously refusing to give us a standard non-discrimination article that would ensure grad workers are better protected. It’s time for UNM’s negotiating team to stop stalling because we will not settle for the status quo.  

We fortunately made progress regarding articles on Employee Contracts, and Discipline and Discharge, and feel confident that we are reaching a tentative agreement on these articles. This is undoubtedly due to our show of power this morning at the picket. UNM and the public cannot ignore us, especially when we come together as a strong collective force.  

As we continue to push for our first contract, we are sharing our stories online to our virtual bulletin board. Our union is stronger with every single member’s support. Add your name here in support of fighting for a contract that improves our lives and strengthens our University. Check out this press coverage of our picket this morning! It was a huge success and actions like it will help show a united front as we continue our negotiations. ​​


June 24th, 2022: The grievance procedure is slowly taking shape; we’re approaching a consensus on the basic structure of this vital component of our first contract, but we still have some issues relating to the necessary timeline of each step. Both sides are committed to having a procedure which provides resolution of conflict in a timely fashion, while still providing a thorough channel for these resolutions.

We are still meeting unnecessary and shameful resistance on our non-discrimination language; in contracts across the country, workers are guaranteed a right to a grievable non-discrimination statement. While we have spent the weeks between bargaining sessions researching how this is reflected in other graduate worker union contracts, it seems the administration has not done their research and is still convinced that it is not a right we ought to have. It is clear that the systems in place are not protecting our most vulnerable bargaining unit members; for example, our international students are being exploited and discriminated against with little to no recourse available. We are not backing down from this issue, and we plan to fight for our right to a non-discrimination article both in and outside the bargaining room.

We made some good faith movements in our counter proposals regarding employee contracts to accommodate UNM’s concerns about needing last minute adjustments to assistantship offers. We were successful in getting the UNM bargaining team to agree that personal errands for a supervisor/advisor should not be a part of a graduate worker’s duties, given the precarious positions that graduate workers face. However, it was evident in their counter proposal that their proposed language was just to save face and not actually to protect graduate workers from difficult circumstances. We are not backing down from our position of needing timely contracts that detail our work duties in a clear and reasonable manner.

While our team and UNM’s team seem to agree that graduate workers have precarious positions and are easily exploited, our approaches to solving this issue seem to drastically diverge. UNM’s negotiating team seems to be promoting and perpetuating a culture of distrust between graduate workers and their advisors, supervisors, departments, and other governing bodies on campus. By suggesting that we should not plan our lives around our assistantships, for example, UNM’s team is also suggesting that we should no longer trust our advisors and supervisors when they assure us of continued work in future semesters. Further, though UNM included language specifying that personal errands should not be considered work duties, they continue to offer limited language on work duty descriptions, suggesting that UNM is more interested in protecting the University from the worst case scenario rather than making the lives of graduate workers easier. This is egregious, and we hope that UNM will take our next bargaining sessions more seriously and commit themselves to fostering a safer and healthier working environment for graduate workers, rather than one of distrust and paranoia. 

June 23, 2022: Today we met with UNM’s negotiating team for another bargaining session. We continued discussions regarding AGREEMENT, NON-DISCRIMINATION, EMPLOYEE CONTRACTS, DISCIPLINE AND DISCHARGE, and GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE articles. We came to a tentative agreement on the AGREEMENT article, which states that the contract we negotiate will be agreed upon between the University of New Mexico and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. 

We had a positive and productive discussion on why we need more detailed and expansive language around EMPLOYEE CONTRACTS. Our bargaining team has proposed language that our contracts must include things such as position descriptions, lists of duties, approximate distribution of hours per duty, as well as requiring appointment and reappointment letters in advance. We look forward to coming to an agreement with UNM’s team regarding this issue, as we believe it would benefit everyone. 

However, we were deeply disappointed at the UNM team’s belief that the non-renewal of an assistantship does not constitute a termination of employment and can therefore serve as a form of discipline. Our bargaining committee noted that many graduate workers are told, formally and informally, that they’ll have contracts in the future only to have such guarantees revoked. This is a difficult situation for anyone, as many of us plan our lives and livelihoods around our assistantship. To this, UNM’s team stated that we “shouldn’t plan our lives” around guarantees of future assistantships. This was incredibly insulting and out of touch with the reality of many graduate workers who have no other sources of income, have families to support, lack savings or familial wealth, etc. 

With regards to our NON-DISCRIMINATION article, UNM’s team has not made any movement from their previous counterpropsal, standing firm in their belief that we should not be allowed to seek grievance in cases of NON-DISCRIMINATION. This is frustrating as our team has tried to make good faith movement on the issue. We plan to keep fighting for a grievable NON-DISCRIMINATION article that protects us all. If you want to share your experiences with discrimination at UNM, you can share them anonymously on our new virtual bulletin board!


May 6th, 2022: Today we discussed Articles on NON-DISCRIMINATION, HEALTH AND SAFETY, UNION RIGHTS, GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE, EMPLOYEE CONTRACTS, and DISCIPLINE AND DISCHARGE.

The tone from UNM’s negotiating team was more contentious today. Their stance on the articles we discussed were concerning for several reasons. On the issue of DISCIPLINE AND DISCHARGE, they do not view renewing contracts as a form of retaliation, disciplining or discharge. On the issue of EMPLOYEE CONTRACTS, they did not consider any of the additional language we offered and instead offered the bare minimum, which is in fact less than what is typically included in most departments’ contracts. On the issue of UNION RIGHTS, the UNM administration’s negotiation team put forth a counterproposal that eliminates the right to have dues deducted from employees’ paychecks–a right of unions across the country.

We are especially disturbed that they are unwilling to move on creating a NON-DISCRIMINATION article that is grievable. It is important that our members feel protected by the union contract and have a process that allows grad workers to file a grievance if they are discriminated against on the basis of race, age, gender, color, national origin, religion, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, United States military veteran’s status or disability. The UNM negotating team’s stance is that current Federal and State laws protect these categories and that the current structures in place, such OEO, that deal with discrimination claims are sufficient. As recent events show, the protection of these categories under Federal and State law are not stable and institutions such OEO do not work adequately. We believe we need a grievable non-discrimination article in our contract–to protect all of us, especially the most vulnerable. Our language that we have proposed is standard practice and has been included in contracts for graduate workers and other employees throughout the country and locally in the state of New Mexico.


May 5th, 2022: We have concluded the second day of our bargaining sessions! Today, we were given counter proposals, amended those counters, and further discussed our proposed articles and language introduced yesterday during our first session. We met with the administration’s committee from 9am until 5pm and will do the same tomorrow for our third bargaining session. 

Some articles have already been agreed upon by both our union and the UNM administration’s committee. They include tentative agreements on: RECOGNITION, DUTY TO COOPERATE, and SEVERABILITY. The RECOGNITION article details that the union is the sole and exclusive bargaining agent for us as grad workers. In the DUTY TO COOPERATE article, we have come to an agreement with the administration’s committee to cooperate with each other and create a respectful environment. Lastly, the SEVERABILITY article means this clause in our contract allows certain parts to remain in effect even if others are illegal or unenforceable. This is a huge win for us and proves that we are on the road to our first contract! 

During the negotiations, our bargaining team provided many thorough examples of our colleagues’ experiences to illustrate the need for protections and improved working conditions. These included measures to ensure safer working conditions and clearer scopes of work outlined in contracts. Our discussions were productive and resulted in progress towards more tentative agreements.


May 4th, 2022: Today was our first day of contract negotiations! It is thanks to each and every one of you that we were able to make it to this monumental day. This is just the beginning, and we have a difficult journey ahead, but with the continued support and engagement of our members, we know we will get a strong first contract! Shout out especially to everyone who wore a sticker today and/or who helped distribute stickers. Because of you, we made our presence on campus known – UNM knows we have the full support and solidarity of our community behind us. If you haven’t joined our union, you can do so here! Join and have a voice in our future contract negotiations.

Our first bargaining session was short (2-4pm), but we were able to get through introductions, went over ground rules, presented our first set of language proposals, and each of your bargaining committee members gave opening statements. The opening statements were powerful, each touching on a different set of priorities that you, our membership, voted on. Issues such as higher stipends, funding security, parking, dental, and timely delivery of contracts were touched on. Some highlights include:

“While working at UNM I have witnessed ample suffering caused by the inadequate wages and protections graduate employees experience. Graduate employees here simply do not have enough money to eat, stay healthy, and afford decent housing. As a result, many don’t have the time or finances to solve the problems they experience due to inadequate grievance procedures and contract security. I choose to exacerbate my own difficult situation to work with my colleagues for a fair contract because I am deeply troubled, not only by the suffering of grad workers, but also by the systematic way that suffering is distributed at our institution.”

“I found the university systems and processes to be unfriendly, uncooperative, un-navigable and deeply rooted in institutional wide disparities towards low-income students and students of color, graduate workers, and all workers for that matter. These disparities promote academic standards and professional expectations aimed at serving a privileged few in disregard for equity.” 

“We all feel exploited and we are tired of it. Graduate workers at UNM deserve to be paid a living wage and given proper health care. We deserve safety in our workplaces and the materials required to perform our duties. We need a fair grievance process, one that protects victims rather than one that shelters harassers and perpetuates cycles of abuse.”

We also set a number of other dates throughout the summer to bargaining:

June 23-24, 9am-5pm, July 13-15, 9am-5pm, August 11-12, 9am-5pm, August 29, 9am-5pm, August 31, 9am-5pm

The UNM negotiating committee was amicable and we hope negotiations continue in this way. We look forward to beginning good faith negotiations and believe these issues are ones that both parties agree need to be addressed.