On a rainy Monday during Spring Break, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents discussed support for a faculty union, resurrected the Athletics cuts discussion and elected new leadership positions on the board.
Douglas “Doug” Brown was elected to regent president, Kimberly Sanchez Rael was elected vice president and secretary-treasurer went to Sandra Begay. All votes were unanimous.
This removes the mantel from both Regents Robert Doughty, and Marron Lee, former regent president and vice president respectively. They are also the only holdovers from former Gov. Susana Martinez’s appointments to the seven-member governing board.
At the top of the meeting, the regents voted unanimously to appoint Marianne Bowers and re-appoint the UNM/Management appointee, Charlotte Lamont, to the UNM Labor Management Relations Board which governs labor negotiations.
According to multiple people within the union, over 900 faculty declared support to unionize, and delivered a collection of signatures to UNM President Garnett Stokes on Feb. 13.
The University has the choice to accept a union, reject the petition or have the union hold an election while negotiating how the union would be formed.
10 faculty, supported by 16 others in bright blue shirts with the American Federation of Teachers logo on the front, spoke before the Board of Regents, voicing their support for a union. AFT and the American Association of University Professors are assisting the United Academics of UNM (UA-UNM) in organizing. According to the union website, membership consists of 26 positions, including full-time and part-time professors, as well as visiting lecturers.
Most of the speakers specifically called out the hiring of labor firm Jackson Lewis, which they saw as an indication that the University was taking a hostile stance towards the union.
“We are not here to fight against you,” said professor Manel Martínez-Ramón of computer engineering. “You don’t have to spend your money to fight against us.”
Some of the goals mentioned included increases in pay and provide a voice when it comes to university decisions such as selecting chairs and deans. Other professors expressed concern about a lack of diversity in top positions and a lack of opportunities.
Patrick Manning, an associate photography professor, was the final speaker and posed a question to the board.
“Will you support an open, fair and democratic election this semester?”
Brown replied “Yes.” Manning thanked the board cheers and clapping erupted and Brown tried to talk through several times. He said the board was open to doing a fair and proper election, and continued to speak.
“That is the reason we need legal guidance, I don’t think it’s fair to characterize that law firm as adversarial. We need guidance and you need guidance.”
Shouts from the faculty included “You promised,” and “Union-busters,” after he had finished.
Stokes said the University has until March 18 to respond to the request for a vote to unionize.
“There is no doubt in my mind that you are really supporting your beliefs about what is best for UNM and UNM’s faculty,” she said.
After the public comment portion of the meeting, the faculty asking for the union went outside the ballroom, and used a megaphone to lead chants such as:
“What do we want?” “A vote.” “When do we want it?” “Now.” and “This is what democracy looks like.”
In the ballroom, Regent Begay talked over the chants that swelled outside the ballroom.
“It’s unfortunate that the Union folks left the room, maybe they’ll read our minutes of our comments,” she said.
Begay said they would not stop a vote to unionize, as it is the faculty’s right.
“Speaking of voices, mine got drowned out by the applause. But what is was saying was ‘Yes, we are committed to a fair process of course we have to have guidance to the process,’ “ Brown said. “We’ve certainly haven’t dug in to any unfair aspects of this.”
Stokes said that it is her understanding that University administration would update the board regarding the direction they were headed, but that her office holds the power to make a final decision for creating a University position on having a faculty union.
When asked by the Daily Lobo if the University’s position will establish a timeline for a vote in the spring semester, Stokes said “the issues that would affect the timing of a vote really have to do with how complex some of the response might be and what work needs to be done. Our goal is to do this as quickly as possible and we have some things to look at and we’re all being thoughtful of the issues raised here.”
Jackson Lewis has offices in 39 states and describes its position on labor on their website as offering "legal advice to employers through the many laws that impact on every aspect of an employer’s decision and ability to develop and implement a strategic, comprehensive preventive labor relations program.”
Stokes said firms align themselves with either labor or management, and Jackson Lewis is on management’s side.
“One would expect that as University leaders that we would be talking to those who align themselves with the leadership side so for us, it’s not about busting a union at all,” she said. “I would expect a management labor-relations firm would even see themselves that way.”
The Daily Lobo has requested the contract for UNM’s hiring of Jackson Lewis, and asked the Inspection of Public Records Act office on campus when documents would be available. The Lobo was told by a staff member the request was under review.
Bowers is an attorney for Eaton Law office in Albuquerque. Lamont is an Albuquerque attorney for Littler Mendelson.
According to their website, Littler Mendelson “provide(s) legal advice to companies as they devise and implement strategies for lawful union avoidance.”
Staff reporter Justin Garcia and Editor-in-Chief Kyle Land contributed to this report.
Danielle Prokop is a senior reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.