After two years of organizing, the faculty at the University of New Mexico have voted to join the union. The unit, more than 1,600 full-time and part-time faculty across five campuses, voted by a 70 percent margin to join the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors.
The new union, United Academics at the University of New Mexico, will give faculty a much-needed seat at the table, so they can ensure increased transparency when it comes to university policy in areas such as equity, job security and stronger student supports, and address bread-and-butter issues like compensation, benefits and grievance procedures through collective bargaining.
“For decades, UNM faculty members have wanted their voices to be heard on an array of issues, from academic freedom to compensation, governance and transparency,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Today, they won a first big step in that righteous fight. Through the power of organizing, faculty demonstrated that when you stand up and raise your voice, you can accomplish far more than you could ever achieve alone.”
The faculty community has been deeply engaged in the union movement, and members have great hopes that their new union will wield influence on important issues. “UA-UNM is the life force and public voice we need,” says Angelika Koch, a temporary part-time faculty member in health, exercise and sports sciences. “We need a faculty union at UNM so all adjuncts and faculty members can be represented in terms of our collective needs.”
“This is a historic moment for faculty at UNM,” said Hilary Lipka, a temporary part-time faculty member in religious studies. “Our victory reflects how important it is that the university treats faculty with dignity and respect. We look forward to sitting down with the administration and negotiating a contract that acknowledges the work and value that part-time faculty contribute to the university.”
The union win is especially sweet given the fight UNM administrators waged against it, with anti-union attorneys and sustained resistance to labor rights. But faculty had powerful supporters on their side, including many elected officials who attended rallies and supported them on social media. “A UNM faculty union will give employees a stronger voice on campus and help make our state’s flagship university’s topnotch education research and service programs even better,” said U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).
“I will always support the efforts of workers to organize for better benefits, better wages and better working conditions,” said U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress. “I appreciate all the work that organizers and faculty are doing in their attempts to unionize at UNM. You have my full support.”
New Mexico has a strong education union history, and AFT New Mexico members have celebrated recent successes at the state level: They helped win state legislation to strengthen community schools, fund career ladders to remedy the state’s teacher shortage and enhance teacher diversity, and bolster job security for school support staff. And they have been instrumental in electing leaders who share AFT values and are successfully advancing policies that support working families. For example, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in September announced a proposal for free tuition for all state residents who attend public colleges and universities in the state.
“All of AFT New Mexico, and in fact all of New Mexico’s unions and our families, are excited to welcome the faculty members of United Academics of UNM into our ranks,” said AFT New Mexico President Stephanie Ly. “This successful vote is the result of years of hard work and organizing by dedicated leaders across New Mexico. We applaud the results and call upon the management of UNM to work quickly and in good faith to negotiate and implement a first contract for the members of the faculty.”