The University of New Mexico Board of Regents held a special meeting last Thursday where members of the board, President Garnett Stokes and Chief Legal Counsel Loretta Martinez discussed a petition signed by more than half of UNM faculty members in support of the formation of a faculty union.
Stokes informed the regents that the union, United Academics of UNM (UA-UNM), had granted the University an extension to respond to the request, which is now set for March 18.
She also said that University leaders must consider "what's in the best interest of the University of New Mexico in response," which she said must include information for the faculty about unionization.
"I think that one thing that is absolutely essential is that we launch an extensive education campaign for our faculty so they fully understand the ramifications of a decision to unionize," Stokes said.
Stokes did not specify what exactly the ramifications were, but mentioned it could affect current government structures, including faculty senate. She also expressed concern about the union's effect on the UNM Health Sciences Center.
"At a time when I'm trying to build bridges between main campus and the Health Sciences Center, I'll admit my concern (is) that we would further divide our campus faculty," Stokes said.
Associate Professor Matias Fontenla, an organizer with UA-UNM, told the Daily Lobo that while HSC employees are not forbidden from joining the union, they are governed by a different set of rules. He pointed out how HSC has different tenure rules and that Chancellor Paul Roth, who oversees HSC, independently decides their compensation and raises.
"Frankly, they are treated better than we are," Fontenla said.
Much of the discussion during the meeting about the union focused on whether the University's decision would be decided by the Board of Regents or Stokes, which remains unclear.
Stokes also highlighted her experience negotiating with unions as provost and interim-president at Florida State University.
Martinez said her office's response to the union's petition will be focused less on the position of the institution and more on which titles listed in the petition (full-time faculty, adjunct, part-time, etc.) are most appropriate. She also pointed out the importance of the education campaign for faculty, while warning the regents of the dangers of unfair labor practices.
"We don't ever want to be in a situation where a proposed member of this class of faculty would believe they're being threatened or intimidated," Martinez said.
Fontenla said that faculty are not required to join the union and that leadership for the union will be decided once an election takes place.
Kyle Land is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.