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UNM graduate students stop traffic to protest for better pay, lower insurance premiums

Members of the United Graduate Workers of the University of New Mexico took to the streets Tuesday in third protest this year. They want higher wages and to stop a proposal that would increase insurance premiums.

Around 200 graduate workers and supporters blocked the intersection at Yale and Lomas for an hour to call attention to their ongoing issues with the administration.

Gisselle Salgado is a graduate worker in Latin American studies who said the location was intentional. "This is a central system, as you can hear from the cars, it really does disrupt the navigation. We want to make our presence impact well felt throughout campus."  

They urged everyone to sign the No Take Backs petition protesting the university’s proposal to have graduate workers pay 20% of their health insurance if they are classified as employees, plus 20% of past insurance costs. The marchers went to Scholes Hall to present the petition with over 800 signatures to President Garnett S. Stokes. However she was at a meeting with a donor.

Ian Birdwell is the chief steward of the United Graduate Workers at UNM where he studies physics and astronomy.

"It's graduate workers who are putting in hours day and night, who are going over their contract hours to be able to meet the mission of the university," said Birdwell. "So it shouldn't come as a surprise that we have the support of so many people in the community." 

Birdwell said it would be great to see similar support from the administration.

"We want to do our jobs, we just want to also be treated like dignified workers."

Tony Wallace is a military veteran who first went to college in 2006 but had to drop out because he could not afford the cost of housing.

"You don't want to come back 15 years later like me believe it, because you're gonna come back to the same problems and we're still going to be standing here, asking for help," Wallace told the crowd. "The power is in us, in protest."

They hope to have a collective bargaining agreement with UNM by December 7th.

A UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair said the university doesn’t comment on on-going negotiations but said they are disappointed in the protest tactics.

Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s a former Local News Fund Fellow. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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