20 years without a raise drives Univ. Of New Mexico faculty to unionize
Members of the United Academics of the University of New Mexico (UA-UNM) show their union pride at a recent game. | UA-UNM via Twitter

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (PAI)—Overcoming entrenched opposition by university bosses—including their importation of one of the nation’s most-notorious union-busters—faculty at the University of New Mexico’s five campuses voted overwhelmingly to unionize with the Teachers (AFT) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Going 20 years without a pay raise was a major issue that helped send professors to unions.

The votes continued a trend at public universities nationwide, which have seen their full-time and adjunct faculty turn to unionization to gain better working conditions, job security and—for the adjuncts—decent pay.

At the same time, teaching assistants and research assistants at both public and private universities, who are low-paid, non-tenured, overworked, and exploited, turned to the Teachers, the Teamsters, and the Auto Workers, among others, for protection and a say on the job.

The Trump-named majority on the National Labor Relations Board is scheming to permanently halt unionization among public university TAs and RAs, however.

United Academics of the University of New Mexico, the faculty’s organizing committee, will set up two bargaining units at UNM’s five campuses, including its flagship university in Albuquerque. The full-time faculty of all five voted 500-305 to unionize, while the part-timers and adjuncts gave the AFT and the association a 256-26 landslide.

United Academics spent several years on the organizing drive, aided by repeated broken promises by a revolving door of university presidents and other brass. Besides the lack of a pay raise, benefit costs kept rising year after year and university support for academic needs declined. That made it harder to effectively teach the students.

Then, news reports said, the latest university president, Garnett Stokes, brought in the notorious union-buster Jackson Lewis to halt the drive, while at the same time signing a contract to have a CIA agent teach “military intelligence” classes—and recruit.

Jackson Lewis first got the vote postponed from spring to fall, after organizers garnered more than 1,000 election authorization cards from the 1,600 faculty members.

University of New Mexico students in Albuquerque, N.M. forced the CIA to cancel a recruitment event at the Student Union Building in Sept. 1988. But now the CIA is back. An active-duty CIA intelligence officer will be embedded on the University of New Mexico’s campus and will carry a teaching or research load comparable to faculty colleagues, according to a new agreement. | Jeff Alexander / The Albuquerque Journal via AP

The union-buster hoped to use the summer to further harangue the faculty into turning against the organizing drive. It didn’t work. Stokes had the university provost send out a campus-wide email saying unions are “antithetical” to the university’s mission. Nothing worked, and the faculty voted union on Oct. 16-17.

“For decades, UNM faculty members have wanted their voices to be heard on an array of issues from academic freedom, to compensation, governance, and transparency,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said. “Through the power of organizing, faculty demonstrated that when you stand up and raise your voice, you can accomplish far more than you could ever achieve alone.

“As they move to the bargaining table, rest assured their national union will have their backs as they work to have their concerns addressed. Addressing their concerns will make this great university an even better place to teach and learn…. It is a victory not only for themselves, but for the students they teach and the community they serve.”




Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.