Editor's note: This article was updated for clarity on 10/9/2019.

Professors and instructors at the University of New Mexico will make a historic decision regarding the future of the University later this month.

On Oct. 16 and 17, UNM faculty — part-time, full-time and at branch campuses — are set to vote on whether they want a collective bargaining unit to represent their interests.

How the Union might affect the University and its students is still unclear and depends on who you ask. 

"A union will not solve any of the pressing issues that challenge UNM," wrote Provost James Holloway in a communique that went out to the "ALL_UNIVERSITY" listserv. "It will not grow our enrollment, change the state funding formula, increase the University’s revenue or create greater collegiality and a sense of shared purpose," Holloway said.

"As I said publicly when I interviewed last February, I fully understand our faculty’s frustration after 10 years of shrinking budgets and no raises. But additional processes and steps, and new bureaucracies to navigate founded on inconsistent principles and conflicting goals, will not improve our financial outlook or continue to build the University to the scholarly heights it must achieve," Holloway continued.

"Provost Holloway," wrote Senior Lecturer in economics Dave Dixon in a letter to the Daily Lobo, "wasn't here to experience our previous state governor, or to endure the frequent suggestions and occasional efforts by the regents and some members of the legislature to control academics at the University."

"And, the reality is, the regents could still accomplish that, while the legislature continues to fail to address pay and benefit issues that should have been resolved decades ago," Dixon's letter continued. "At that level, UNM faculty and state management are on opposing sides in the classical labor market sense. Addressing that is not in the purview of the provost. The provost, however, can choose to act as a colleague or as a proxy of the state."

What remains more in focus is what the faculty will be voting on: Two collective-bargaining units to represent two portions of the faculty (part-time and full-time). However, that wasn’t always set in stone. After eight months of back and forth, long hours of public comment in Board of Regents meetings and several marches around the Duck Pond, a vote to unionize seems imminent.

The union effort officially began in February earlier this year, when the proposed union — United Academics of UNM (UA-UNM) — delivered a petition to President Garnett Stokes during her traveling office hours to form a union.

In March 2019, the University recommended that the Board reject the petition to unionize on the grounds that the petition wasn't stated appropriately. They recommended that UA-UNM submit another petition with UNM’s recommended changes. That never happened, and negotiations rolled into April.

In April of this year, the petition then went to the UNM Labor Management Relations Board (LMRB) for further action, where the two groups ultimately reached an agreement. However, the negotiation didn’t occur in a public space like it was billed. Instead, lawyers for the Union and the University — which was represented by the Jackson Lewis law firm — hashed out the terms in the hallway outside the formal meeting for six hours.

The negotiations came to three points:

  • 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 any potential bargaining unit

Additionally, two University groups were also excluded: Health Science Center (HSC) faculty and UNM staff who also work as faculty.

A labor and management agreement was reached between UNM and staff employees in 2014 to unionize under the name United Staff of UNM (US-UNM), preventing them for joining a second union.

During the two voting blocks during the union election next week, there are three potential outcomes.

First, both the full-time and part-time faculty unions could be approved by the voters. Second, no unions could be formed. Lastly, one union, either for the part-time faculty or the full-time faculty, could form while the other does not. 

Justin Garcia is the Editor-in-Chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at editorinchief@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @Just516garc

Makayla Grijalva is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter at @MakaylaEliboria