The University of New Mexico faculty is set to vote for or against the formation of collective bargaining units on Oct. 16 and 17.
If enough faculty vote “Yes,” a full-time and part-time union would begin to form as United Academics of UNM (UA-UNM.) If “No” wins out, it’s unclear what would happen to the multi-year effort to unionize.
After months of dramatic showing by pro-union professors — covering the campus in signs reading “Yes” and flooding previous Board of Regents meetings in matching UA-UNM t-shirts — the "no" argument made itself heard.
“I started out ambivalent about the vote. I am personally pro-union. I just don’t think its right for our faculty,” Civil Engineering Professor Andrew Schuler said during the Public Comment section at the Oct. 15 Board of Regents meeting.
Schuler is a Director at UNM — a status that bars him from voting. Schuler’s engineering colleague, Abhaya Datye, said “disenfranchisement” was one of his principal concerns.
“Do I see myself as a supervisor or a manager? Absolutely not,” Datye, a chairperson in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, said. “I’m a mentor or a coach. My goal is to make everybody in my department successful.”
In a letter sent to the Daily Lobo outlining his concerns, Datye also accused the pro-unionists of “deception and intimidation.” He pointed to the union’s purchase of internet domain names similar to an anti-union website. Datye also pointed to a recent Provost communique that condemned the removal and replacement of anti-union signs around main campus.
For UNM School of Law Professor and union organizer Ernesto Longa, the feeling of intimidation is mutual.
“I’ve actually witnessed faculty who were genuinely fearful to share their opinion in favor of the Union,” Longa said.
Longa added that faculty without tenure he’d spoken to, were fearful their support might cost them their job.
“It really does call into question the extent to which we work at a University that respects academic freedom when that fear is so real for so many people,” Longa said.
Theo Walker, a part-time Spanish and Portuguese instructor who said he will vote in favor of a union, said he was cautiously optimistic the Union would form, but he couldn’t be sure.
“One never knows where the faculty is at on the campus. One really doesn’t get a feeling. I think that has to do with the lack of esprit de corps, kind of a depressed spirit amongst the faculty over the last few years, feeling that their voices aren’t heard,” Walker said.
It’s unclear if the four-year push to unionize will come to fruition, or if recent accusations against UA-UNM’s process and procedures will sink the vote. What is clear, according to Faculty Senate President Finnie Colman, is the issues that created the desire for a union.
“I think this is also something of a wake-up call for the administration; not just at this University, but other universities across the state,” Colman told the Regents, UNM President Garnett Stokes and Provost James Holloway after public comment on Tuesday.
In interviews with The Daily Lobo and during Tuesday's Regent's meeting, Coleman has kept his opinion on the union personal. Instead, Coleman said that professors on both sides have compelling arguments, of which he urged the administrators in attendance to listen to.
“This effort to unionize didn't just spring out of nowhere. There were reasons that people felt strongly enough to come together for unionization. Whether we unionize or don’t unionize, we have to take those things into consideration and work diligently to address the issues that led us to the point that we're in right now,” Coleman said.
The vote is taking place on the third floor of the Student Union Building, in rooms Lobo A and B, and on each of UNM’s branch campuses.
The results of the vote will be made public on Oct. 18. Check the Daily Lobo’s Twitter (@Dailylobo) and dailylobo.com for breaking results.
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