Editor's note: This story has been updated with developments including the Committee on Governance faculty meeting Tuesday morning.
The University of New Mexico and United Academics of UNM (UA-UNM), the proposed faculty union for the state’s flagship university, reached an agreement late Monday night, according to multiple sources close to the matter.
That night, Associate Professor Matías Fontenla, a member of the union’s organizing committee, told the Daily Lobo there would be two bargaining units — one for full-time faculty and the other for part-time.
He also said faculty from branch campuses will be included in the full-time bargaining team, a major sticking point for UNM in their initial rejection of the union’s petition.
President Garnett Stokes and UNM Chief Legal Counsel Loretta Martinez expanded on the outline of the union during a general faculty meeting on Tuesday morning:
- There will be two collective bargaining units for full-time and part-time faculty.
- All faculty from UNM’s branch campuses will be included in the bargaining units.
- Emeritus professors, department chairs and directors, and visiting faculty are not included in the bargaining units.
Martinez said an election to approve a collective bargaining unit for the faculty is planned for an unspecified date during the fall 2019 semester. She said this was for the union and University to create education campaigns. Stokes has spoken previously about starting an education campaign, although it is unclear what the campaign would look like.
UA-UNM has yet to speak publicly about any education campaign. However, the union has held various social and informational events during the semester.
Faculty Governance — a committee of the Faculty Senate — organized Tuesday’s meeting, which was held in Popejoy Hall. Full-time faculty, who are allowed to vote in faculty senate elections, sat in the downstairs seating area. Part-time faculty were required to sit in the upper level in the public area, which remained sparse throughout the two-hour meeting.
The meeting included a faculty comment period. Many of those who spoke read from statements written by faculty members from branch campuses who were unable to attend.
“I’m disappointed in the scheduling of this meeting,” said Carolyn Kuchera, a professor of english in Gallup, in a pre-written statement read by a colleague. “Our ... teaching load and distance from main campus make attendance at a Tuesday morning meeting almost impossible.”
While most of those who commented said they supported the union in some way, some faculty expressed dissatisfaction with some tactics they say the union tried.
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Marek Osinski, a professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, said his senior colleague tried to convince him for half an hour to sign a union card, even though he had said he wasn’t interested. He also took issue with the behavior of some of the union members during the meeting, and said young faculty members were being “coerced” into joining.
“That process has been flawed from the very beginning,” Osinski said. “The union claims to represent the whole university — they don’t represent me.”
Other speakers disagreed with Osinski’s arguments. Nick Estes, an assistant professor at the American Studies department, said the organizing process was transparent and inclusive of indigenous faculty members.
Another contentious point of the comment section involved the bargaining unit not including Health Sciences Center (HSC).
Carla Wilhite, an assistant professor of pediatrics, said not having HSC faculty in the bargaining unit undermined in the entire organizing effort. She said she heard that it was a strategic move to exclude HSC faculty from the unit, a claim the union organizers on the stage denied.
“There’s a lot of misinformation,” Fontenla said.
Ernesto Longa, a law professor and union organizer, said UNM labor rules and regulations makes a staff the size of the HSC impossible to include into UA-UNM. Martinez said accrediting HSC into the union is technically possible.
The LMRB Hearing
The UNM Labor Management Relations Board was supposed to hold a hearing on Monday, their first in over five years, after UNM originally rejected the union’s proposed bargaining unit. However, attorneys from both sides spent nearly six hours negotiating in the hallway outside the meeting room.
Eventually, the meeting was adjourned so the sides could continue negotiations, which concluded around 8 p.m.
“Happily last night, we came to a compromise,” Fontenla said during the faculty meeting.
The University and union now have to work out when, where and how a vote on UA-UNM’s implementation would be conducted. These details must be approved by the LMRB. Rita Siegel, the appointed counsel for the labor board, said the process could take a couple weeks.
Kyle Land is a senior reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.