ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Faculty at the University of New Mexico have agreed to terms on a historic first contract, drawing on the power of collective action to overcome the challenges of the pandemic and win significant and enduring gains at the bargaining table. The faculty union, United Academics of the University of New Mexico, reached the tentative agreement May 19 to secure pay raises and job security protections for the most vulnerable full- and part-time faculty and to create pathways of relief from an overly burdensome workload. The agreement covers over 1,600 full- and part-time faculty.
“Over the last 16 months, I have been inspired by the work of my faculty colleagues,” said Satya Witt, biology lecturer and bargaining team member of UA-UNM. “The UNM faculty deserves this contract, a contract that provides basic protections, a modicum of job security, and a compensation plan on track to keep up with the cost of living. We look forward to a brighter future, one in which the administration and UA-UNM will work together to bolster recruiting, retention and morale at UNM.”
“I am very excited about the gains we have made for part-time instructors in this contract, including much-needed raises, increased job security, guaranteed office space, and access to the professional resources and support we need to be successful at our jobs,” said Hilary Lipka, a part-time instructor of religious studies.
UA-UNM is affiliated nationally with the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers. AFT President Randi Weingarten cheered the agreement:
“While COVID-19 ravaged the country, our brothers and sisters at UNM showed their resiliency by turning on a dime to implement new teaching methods to provide high-quality education to their students. By coming together at the bargaining table, they sought a recognition of their immense efforts and the voice at work they deserved. Their pathbreaking first contract will deliver equitable pay, job security and increased benefits so that faculty and their students have the freedom to thrive.”
AAUP President Irene Mulvey added:
“The real winner here is higher education in New Mexico and the rest of the country. Protecting faculty rights and providing fair compensation will help ensure that the university stays true to its core academic mission. AAUP and our organizing partner, the AFT, congratulate the United Academics of UNM and look forward to continuing our work together at these important institutions of higher education in New Mexico.”
After 16 months of negotiating, this tentative agreement was informed by thousands of conversations with faculty across the university’s campuses. UA-UNM holds the belief that an empowered faculty will enhance the learning environment for our students, create stronger partnerships with our communities, and help build a better UNM for current and future generations.
During a pandemic, UA-UNM secured a 1.5 percent raise across the board, which will be effective July 1, the faculty members’ first raise since 2019. For the first time ever, adjunct faculty will receive a 4 percent increase to their pay. Another first for UNM faculty is that the salaries for each rank of full-time faculty have been set. Without these minimum salaries, there is a vast variance of pay among faculty in the same rank and title across the university. These minimum salaries are the first step toward closing that gap.
This agreement will bring vast improvements for adjunct faculty, who will now know they are hired to teach a class by the end of the previous semester. After three years of teaching at UNM, adjunct faculty will be given yearlong appointments and a guaranteed four-course-per-year course assignment. Furthermore, adjunct faculty will have the tools needed to do their jobs, such as access to offices, retaining their email and library privileges between semesters, and orientations to departments and UNM when first hired.
“Faculty members at UNM deserve everything they have fought for and valiantly won in this contract,” said Stephanie Ly, president of AFT New Mexico. “Not only have they spent the last 16 months waiting for this very moment, but they have also dedicated themselves to bettering academic life at UNM during a global crisis. We thank the AFT for their support and guidance through this process and look forward to the work UA-UNM will take part in on behalf of their members.”