The University of New Mexico filed a notice of appeal Friday in 2nd Judicial District Court as part of an effort to prevent graduate student workers from unionizing.
Graduate assistants at the university, seeking better pay and health care benefits, had filed a petition to certify a new bargaining unit with the state’s labor board in December 2020.
A hearing officer ruled in June that the workers weren’t eligible to bargain with the university under the Public Employee Bargaining Act because they had “no expectation of continuing” their roles as assistants. The decision was reversed in August after an appeal by United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America; it was replaced by an interim ruling that has not been made final. Proponents of the reversal say it applies to all graduate workers in the state.
A final card check process, in which graduate workers must prove the have adequate amount of support in favor of bargaining, is the last step before United Graduate Workers of UNM can begin negotiations with the university. The university is asking the Public Employee Labor Relations Board to stall that process until the outcome of the appeal is known, arguing that if graduate workers are deemed ineligible to bargain, resources could be wasted at multiple universities amid attempts to unionize.
At New Mexico State University, graduate workers have demonstrated majority support in favor of unionization are trying to gain approval to form a collective bargaining unit, and the Public Employee Labor Relations Board is charged with deciding whether they’re eligible to do so as public employees after the school’s local labor board officially dissolved Monday.
Labor lawyer Dina Holcomb is representing both schools, while United Electrical is representing student workers.
“The impetus for the appeal, which has yet to be filed, is that University believes the PELRB has been incorrect and overbroad in its rulings, and this case will set a precedent for all research universities in New Mexico,” University of New Mexico spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair said in a recent email to The New Mexican.