The United Graduate Workers of the University of New Mexico held “Rally for Recognition” on Sept. 3 to call on the University to begin bargaining with them for their union rights. The event, which started near the Student Union Building, culminated in a march to UNM President Garnett Stokes’ house on campus to deliver a petition demanding that the University begin bargaining with the Union.
The petition, which had approximately 2,000 signatures, was presented to office staff instead of Stokes, whom staff said was at a meeting and unavailable.
“The effect I hope that the rally has on campus is that graduate workers continue to feel empowered to challenge exploitative and unethical working conditions but that other workers on campus, like undergraduate workers, feel the reverberations of empowerment to demand living wages and better working conditions on campus,” union member Natalia Toscano said.
The Union emphasized the poor working conditions they endure at the University, and union member and event emcee Kelsey Treviño said she is even missing teeth because getting them pulled was the cheaper option due to her lack of dental insurance.
“Give us vision, give us dental; graduate workers are essential,” the crowd chanted at the rally.
Union member Emma Mincks said her students would receive a lesser education if she only put in the amount of effort synonymous with UNM’s working conditions.
“If I only worked the amount of hours that I am paid for, my students would receive a subpar education,” Mincks said.
Another speaker, union member Melissa Bendt, said this issue disproportionately affects grad workers who are also parents.
“Low wages and abusive working conditions effectively discriminate against students who are parents,” Bendt said.
The rally follows the Union’s recent win in a hearing with the New Mexico Public Employees Labor Relations Board that deemed graduate workers are public and regular employees, giving them the right to unionize and bargain for a fair contract with the University. A bargaining unit hearing with the board in the future will legally outline what their bargaining units look like. However, the University has yet to begin the bargaining process.
“UNM administration needs to bargain now; that is state law,” Malczynski said. “So we expect that UNM gets ready to sit down with us at the bargaining table as soon as possible.”
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Some of the other speakers in attendance were there to stand in solidarity for the Union, including undergraduate student Sofia Jenkins-Nieto, a member of Leaders for Environmental Action and Foresight. As a member of the Student Solidarity Coalition, an organization for groups to stand in solidarity with one another on campus, she said issues like these are important for all students at the University.
“UNM needs to wake up and start putting the needs of students first,” Jenkins-Nieto said.
Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @madelinepukite