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UNM employees to vote on forming union

Staff and Wire Report

About 1,000 University of New Mexico employees from academic advisers to child care workers decide on March 22 whether to form a union.

The election is the first of two approved by the UNM Board of Regents for polls of workers in educational support and technical staff areas, but will exclude managers, who are not allowed to unionize in accordance with regents' policy.

The organizing committee - known as United Staff UNM - has affiliated with the New Mexico Federation of Educational Employees.

The biggest category of employees who will be voting is probably the administrative assistants, who number in the hundreds, said Susan Carkeek, associate vice president and director of human resources.

Some 30 to 40 academic advisers also are eligible to vote, she said.

Ona Savage, an English Department employee who has been active in organizing the election, said staff members have complaints about their salaries, benefits and working conditions.

"We feel as though employees are ready to have a hand in deciding their own futures," Savage said.

She said "morale hasn't been terrific" among university staff.

"We're just thrilled that after six years of hard work, the staff will finally be able to decide whether it wants to be represented by a union," Savage said.

But Carkeek said the university has a great working relationship with the staff, who has a representative sitting at the table with the Board of Regents.

"I think they have wonderful access, so I don't particularly see the need for a union," she said.

The vote requires a 60 percent turnout to be valid and will be decided by a simple majority.

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On election day, Staff members from north campus will vote in the Basic Medical Science Building, while main and south campus staff will vote in Popejoy Hall. The rules that the University and organizing staff agreed to state that staff members must vote at the polling place nearest their work site between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Employees who regularly work outside of Bernalillo County are eligible to vote by a mail ballot. Attorney Rita Siegel, the independent party who will oversee the elections, will send out the ballots. She will also supervise absentee voting, which will be allowed for employees who are eligible to vote but will be absent on the day of voting because of hospitalization, temporary assignment, a leave of absence or are on vacation more than 50 miles away from the University.

Employees wishing to cast absentee ballots must make their request with Siegel by March 12, and she must receive the completed ballot no later than March 21.

For more information about the election, contact the United Staff of UNM at 243-4088 or the University's Human Resources Department at 277-1849.


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