United Graduate Workers of the University of New Mexico ratified a wage agreement with the University’s administration on Nov. 28.
As previously reported, the agreement includes a 6% raise and a 6% increase of the minimum stipend a grad worker can be paid, along with standardization of contracts to 18 weeks for teaching assistants/associates, research assistants and graduate assistants.
Graduate students affected by the agreement should expect to see a raise on their spring 2024 contracts, according to Dominic Oddo – UGW Bargaining Committee member and Chief Steward for the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Out of all card signers in our union, 64% of them voted with 98% of them voting 'yes,'” Oddo wrote to the Daily Lobo.
The agreement also reopens UGW’s bargaining sessions in March which allows them to negotiate with state legislators for higher wages at a time when legislators are determining the budget allocation for UNM during odd-numbered years. In doing so, this establishes future bargaining sessions.
“Now we've won another compensation reopener – which is just another chance to bargain for a wage increase – in the spring of 2024,” Oddo said.
Only those who signed a union membership card were eligible to vote for the agreement. A union membership card certifies an individual as part of the union, for Union membership dues allows the Union to represent them in bargaining sessions.
Graduate workers have seen a 22.88% increase to minimum stipends since UGW’s first contract was certified in Dec. 2022. This includes both the 5.88% increase from the 18-week contract extension and the 6% raise under the recent agreement.
In these coming bargaining sessions, UGW will continue to advocate for higher wages for graduate workers. UGW’s goal, Oddo said, is to align graduate workers' wages with those of New Mexico public school teachers.
UGW’s target wage for an assistant contract is $26,000, Oddo said. This is about half of one APS tier teacher's salary as most graduate workers’ contracts are set to 50% full-time employment.
“Given that many of us are also educators in a lot of very profound ways, we also think that our wages should be tied to the levels that are paid to public school teachers by the state of New Mexico,” Oddo said.
The current wage minimums for 50% time pre-masters graduate assistants and research assistants at UNM is $8,167.81 per semester, according to the new contract.
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“We celebrate this as a win but we recognize that we have a lot of work to do moving forward,” Oddo said.
Nate Bernard is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo