Full-time and part-time faculty at the University of New Mexico voted by wide margins this week to form unions.

Just over 1,000 full-time faculty members were eligible to vote and 500 of the 811 ballots cast — or 62 percent — were in favor of unionizing, while 90 percent of eligible adjunct faculty votes were in favor of the move, the university announced Friday.

“This is a historic win for all faculty that is certain to make UNM a better institution,” said Jessamyn Lovell, director of the undergraduate art department at UNM’s main campus. “We’re looking forward to the collective bargaining process.”

Lovell said the organizing effort began over cups of tea and beers in the fall of 2014.

In interviews with The New Mexican ahead of the vote, faculty members cited a lack of cost-of-living raises, a lack of transparency in hiring and promotion practices, and a lack of stability during periods of leadership turnover as motivations for organizing.

The United Academics of UNM, which is jointly affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors, will represent faculty at UNM’s main campus in Albuquerque as well as branch campuses in Gallup, Los Alamos, Taos and Los Lunas.

Part-time adjunct faculty and full-time professors will be represented by separate bargaining units.

For the UNM Labor Management Board to certify the vote, 40 percent of eligible voters needed to take part. According to the university, the votes far exceeded that, with more than 80 percent of full-time faculty and about 59 percent of adjunct faculty participating.

“It feels amazing to have such overwhelming support and solidarity from my colleagues,” said John Zimmerman, a fine arts professor who said he has worked under eight chancellors during the past 13 years at UNM-Gallup. “Now we get down to the work of changing UNM for the better, together.”

The results will not be official until they are certified by the UNM Labor Management Board, which meets at 9 a.m. Friday. Once the union is certified, a committee of bargaining representatives will be selected and a contract with the university will be negotiated.

“The faculty decisions on unionization speak their will,” Provost James Holloway, who opposed the union in a campuswide email last month, said in a news release Friday. “I look forward, in partnership with our faculty and the rest of the Lobo community, to helping move UNM forward as a great research university.”

Since the beginning of the school year, most of New Mexico’s congressional delegation — U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján, Xochitl Torres Small and Deb Haaland, and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich — as well as Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham — all issued statements expressing varying degrees of support for the faculty organizing effort. All are Democrats.

“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. Today, they won a first big step in that righteous fight,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a news release Friday.

“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,” Weingarten said.

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(1) comment

Khal Spencer

Organizing faculty is like herding cats. To successfully do that, things have to be pretty grim. The Journal's article today about a med school unit losing accreditation is yet another piece of evidence that UNM, academic program is a train wreck and I put the blame squarely on the Regents and State Government, which pulls the strings and seems to prefer football teams to academic excellence.

I'm not sure whether having two bargaining units is a good idea or not. There are a lot of overlapping issues as well as separate ones. Workload, salaries and benefits, job security for adjuncts vs. academic freedom protection for tenured, etc. But they can figure that out. At the Univ. of Hawaii, where I was once on the faculty union board of directors (full disclosure here) we had one unit and sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not. University center vs. community colleges vs. adjuncts all had separate issues but being a small unit of 3,000 people, there was strength in numbers.

Congrats to the faculty on making a decision. Good luck.

Khal Spencer

Geology Dept. graduate faculty member

School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology, the U of Hawaii at Manoa


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