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Staff votes for unionization

United Staff of UNM to represent group; next step is ratification

The United Staff of UNM won the right to represent educational support employees at the bargaining table Thursday.

Of 1,050 eligible voters, 658 cast ballots with 531 voting to unionize and 127 voting against it. The union met the minimum number of votes to make the election valid — 630 votes or 60 percent. The group easily met the simple majority it needed to win the election.

About 25 union representatives who had been campaigning since 5 a.m. erupted with joy when the results were announced in Popejoy Hall at 7:30 p.m. As they were cheering, representatives from the University’s Human Resources Department gathered their things and headed home after keeping close vigil on the tallying of ballots.

Susan Carkeek, associate vice president for human resources, said she was not surprised by the election results.

“It was really close, and I think the number of people that showed up to vote was just above the 60 percent threshold they needed,” she said. “There were a lot of staff members whose voices weren’t heard, which is disappointing, but so be it. We’ll continue with the process from here.”

Carkeek said the next step is for the University to present the elections results to the Board of Regents for ratification.

Ona Savage, an adviser in the English Department, has fought for the last six years to see educational support staff unionize and was the union representative who signed off on the election results.

“It’s wonderful,” she said fighting back tears of joy. “What makes such a difference to me is that, for years, we thought people here were apathetic, but this proves that they aren’t. It just feels so great, and it’s so exciting.”

She said the election’s results are incredibly significant.

“It can take the uncertainty out of raises and can do a lot of things for a lot of people,” she said. “We can work to improve salaries and deal with the issues that are important to staff members.”

Savage said she will retire this year and added that she could not be leaving on a better note.

“I really feel as though the University will be better when I leave than when I came, and I love this place, I really do,” she said.

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Alan Morgan, an academic adviser in the College of Nursing, did his best Uncle Sam impression and spent the day rallying support and encouraging eligible staff members to vote. He said his 14-hour day was worth it.

“I think it’s a great moment for the staff,” he said. “You worry about top-down organizations where the system is set up to support those on top and exclude others, but today is where it starts. We have the opportunity to make this into anything we want, so I hope we start by getting as many staff members involved as possible and show what democracy can do.”

Morgan said that a month ago he wasn’t sure that the union would have won the election because staff members were scared of the ramifications they would face for voting if the union lost.

“A lot of people who were afraid came out and voted,” he said. “They contrary to the way their fears had run.”

He said the overwhelming support the union received is a sign of good things to come.

“I think hope is running high because no one expected such good numbers,” he said. “It’s an incredible opportunity. Instead of competing against each other, we have the opportunity to take care of each other and be heroes to each other and that’s a great thing.”

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