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UNM graduate workers call for negotiations

Graduate workers and their supporters rally on the UNM campus
Alice Fordham
Graduate workers and their supporters rally on the UNM campus

At the University of New Mexico, graduate workers and their supporters rallied Wednesday to call for the university authorities to bargain with them.

Graduate students at UNM say they work longer hours than they get paid for and that their health insurance is inadequate. PhD candidate Sarah Worland, joining dozens of people rallying outside the student union, said, "I really enjoy teaching. I think it's an important profession, but I do think that across the board education is often devalued."

Worland said that her contract stipulated, "that teaching a class should take you 10 hours a week. And to me that number seems sort of drawn out of thin air."

In recent weeks, the state’s Public Employee Labor Relations Board has decided that a majority of the school's graduate workers favor collective bargaining, and has recognized the union, despite ongoing legal challenges by the university.

The university believes the board, "has been incorrect and overbroad in its rulings," said Cinnamon Blair, the chief marketing and communications officer for UNM, "and this case will set a precedent for all research universities in New Mexico."

She added, "we feel that a correct and thorough legal examination of the issues is necessary and this is the role of the courts."

But the rally called on the university to begin a bargaining process. UNM alum Israel Chávez said, "you shouldn't have to be able to be independently wealthy to research, to use your mind. And you shouldn't have to be getting into monumental debt."

After the rally, a delegation delivered letters to the university administration, demanding that negotiations begin.

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.