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United Graduate Workers of UNM hold rally and march to urge university admin to bargain

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Gino Gutierrez
/
KSFR News

Members of the United Grad Workers of UNM, along with several speakers gather Wednesday in a rally and march titled a “community demand to bargain”, in an effort to urge UNM administration to meet with the union to begin contract negotiations.

  

The graduate workers won their union card count back in December, with 57.3% of graduate students signing cards expressing their wishes to join the United Graduate Workers of UNM. 

Sara Worland, a teaching assistant at UNM, said the certification of the grad workers union gives her hope for the bargaining process.

“It gives me a lot of hope, it’s been a long process, but it’s cool to be at this point and be legally certified. Just really joining with the great work that all graduate workers at this campus have been doing for a long time.”

Worland went on to say Wednesday’s rally was a part of the ultimate goal, that through this bargaining process, they can make UNM a better place for future generations of undergraduate and graduate students.

“That’s our ultimate goal, that’s been our ultimate goal for a long time. And I think overall I believe that negotiating and bargaining is going to make UNM a better place overall for undergraduates, graduates, faculty, everyone involved here. I love UNM, so that’s really my hope, is to make it an even better place through this process.” 

U.S Representative Melanie Stansbury, was set to speak at Wednesday’s rally, but could not attend due to contracting COVID-19. In her place, Ebony Baty, a member of her staff read remarks on her behalf.

“I first met with United Grad Workers of UNM when I was serving in the New Mexico State House, before New Mexicans sent me to congress to represent our first congressional district. I have been so inspired by the heart and determination of this group, which has set an example for grad workers across the country.”

In her remarks, Stansbury said she came from a union family, with her mother unionizing her own workplace. This led to her stance on workplace unionizations. 

“That’s why I’ve always been a strong advocate for labor and the right to organize. That’s why I strongly support our grad workers efforts to organize and bargain collectively.”

In closing, Stansbury said it is important to strive to do better by graduate workers. By improving their working conditions, you improve the university overall.

“We can and we must do better. Better working conditions for graduate workers benefit our entire community. They improve the learning conditions for our undergraduate students, improve our graduate researchers ability to focus on their research instead of having to hold second and third jobs and in turn they improve the standing of our flagship university.”

Israel Chàvez, an attorney and alum of both UNM and UNM Law school said he was ashamed of the university's unwillingness to come to the bargaining table.

“The idea that UNM resists coming to the table to fairly bargain is shameful. As a double alum of this school, I am ashamed of this administration’s unwillingness to come to the table and work fairly with its workers.” 

Chàvez said that the university should shift focus from using public funds to union bust to putting that effort into negotiations with the grad union. 

“Union busting is wrong and it wastes dollars, university dollars, our tax dollars and your tuition dollars to try and undermine workers, to try and undermine the vision of protecting workers is wrong. And I want to see the (UNM) president, I want to see the administration, the provost come to the table. Because wasting dollars in this way is just that, wasting dollars. They should be focused on negotiating, they should be focused on bargaining, and they should do it with the same energy that they put into trying to bust this union.”

Jay Wilson, a representative of Organizers in the Land of Enchantment or OLE also spoke about the university's attempts to break up the graduate workers union through the use of public funds. 

“You see, it’s funny that they say in their mission statement that they want to satisfy lives and cultivate minds. But how can you do that when it has been disclosed that this institution has spent over $130,000 of public money, your money, his money, her money, to break up this energy, to break up your power.” 

Wilson said that it’s up to UNM to deliver on flagship results for their graduate workers, in order to maintain its title of being New Mexico’s flagship university.

“And if UNM is to stay true to its claim of being the flagship university, the flagship institution of our state then it needs to deliver flagship values and flagship results.”

After the speaking portion of the rally had concluded, a delegation of graduate union members marched from the rally spot near the student union building to scholar’s hall, which houses the office of both the university provost and president. 

The delegation was to deliver letters sent by individuals urging UNM’s administration to come to the bargaining table and begin negotiations. The group marched, while chanting several rallying cries, all the way into the provost’s office.

 

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Credit Gino Gutierrez / KSFR News
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KSFR News
Grad Union delegation delivering the letters to provost's office

  

 

When delivering the letters, the union members asked if they could see the provost, but were informed he was in a different building at the time.