“Who are we? Graduate Workers! What do we want? A living wage!”
That was one of several chants shouted by around 200 (mostly) graduate workers during a march and protest for higher wages on Wednesday.
The event was one day after faculty at the University of New Mexico held another march as a part of the ongoing effort to unionize, and nine days after the Board of Regents, who govern UNM, approved a hike to graduate student’s cost of attendance.
“I just want to live somewhere safe, I just want to afford rent and I want to be able to pay my car insurance to drive to school,” Monica Wolfe, an organizer of the march, said.
With a 3% tuition increase and additional fees, graduate students will pay an additional $302 a year after July.
Wolfe is a teaching assistant in the English department. She said that Wednesday’s march around UNM Main Campus was the first step of a process to secure higher wages.
“This is to gain awareness, to gain recognition and to reach out to other graduate workers who might be afraid to speak out,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe said Wednesday's march and the graduate workers who organized it were not affiliated with any union, including United Academics of UNM (UA-UNM), the proposed faculty union.
But that’s the direction Axel Gonzalez, another organizer, said he would like to go.
Gonzalez, a teaching and graduate assistant in the American Studies Department, said the group did not have comment on if they had been contacted by a large labor union (such as the American Federation of Teachers or UA-UNM).
Christopher Rivera attended the march after hearing about on social media. Rivera is studying community and regional planning and said he makes around $14,000 a year working at UNM. He said that he was angry about the effects of “frivolous” budget cuts to the Office of Graduate Studies, where he worked. He called his graduate worker experience at UNM demoralizing.
“Why should I have to say ‘I grew up in section 8 housing’ and ‘it’s hard being a minority student’ to all these different places?” Rivera said.
Justin Garcia is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Just516garc.