On July 1, the landmark contract between the United Academics of the University of New Mexico (UA-UNM) and UNM will go into effect, marking the first active bargaining agreement between the Union and the school’s administration over terms and conditions of employment. Both UA-UNM and UNM’s bargaining unit have signed the agreement, and the Union is in the process of finalizing the contract language.
The contract, ratified on June 11, is split into two units for faculty: Unit 1, which covers different levels of professors, lecturers and instructors, and Unit 2, which accounts for temporary part-time instructors, adjuncts and term teaching faculty.
The Union currently represents approximately 1,600 members across the main campus and branch campuses in Gallup, Taos, Los Alamos and Valencia.
Only members are allowed to vote and have a voice in union matters, according to the constitution of UA-UNM. However, under the 2018 Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, non-union faculty who qualify under the contract will have access to the benefits secured by the Union.
Listed on the UA-UNM “First Contract Highlights” are the salary increases for faculty, who will have a 1.5% and 4% salary base increase for Unit 1 and Unit 2 faculty respectively.
Other highlighted topics include policies on workload, grievances, leave and benefits. Academic freedom will be protected and a labor management committee — composed of members from both the Union and administration — will meet on a quarterly basis, according to the contract highlights.
The academic workload portion of the document also takes note of “the imbalanced service burdens on BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) faculty and the historical lack of understanding and respect for definitions of ‘non-traditional’ areas of research.” According to a tweet by the Union, there is currently a 9-1 ratio of white students to white faculty, and a 35-1 ratio of students of color to faculty of color.
Cris Elder, an associate professor and union member, said the safeguards for adjunct faculty in the contract are especially important. This can be seen in the stipulation that faculty who teach an appointment percent of 0.50 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) — which the contract says “corresponds to teaching four (4) three-credit courses during the two terms of the academic year” — may be offered a year-long teaching appointment from the University, which guarantees a minimum appointment percent of 0.50 FTE.
“If you know what your FTE will be for a whole year, you will know if you can or can’t apply for health insurance,” Jeremy Baker, adjunct professor and union member, said.
The Health Sciences Center (HSC) is uniquely excluded from the academics’ agreement, according to Cinnamon Blair, UNM’s chief marketing and communications director. HSC is the only academic center represented by a separate union: the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees.
Since the unionizing process first started in 2017, UA-UNM has experienced pushback from the University, having been dismissed multiple times despite support from a majority of faculty, according to the timeline of the Union’s history created by UA-UNM.
“It was a very hard-fought win to get the contract,” Lee Montgomery, associate professor and union organizer, said. “The administration's first contract was … very regressive in terms of the rights that we already had as faculty.”
In a statement to the Daily Lobo on June 15 from the University’s bargaining team, members said that they hope the contract will lead to a positive relationship moving forward.
“We are grateful to the negotiating teams for UA-UNM and for the University for their dedicated work on this important matter, and we look forward to implementing these fully-executed agreements,“ Blair said.
Zoe Perls is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zoeperls
Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @madelinepukite