University of New Mexico faculty voted to unionize this week, which means labor relations in the future will be negotiated through two separate collective bargaining units. The win for the United Academics of UNM (UA-UNM) comes after years of organizing by faculty who say they want fair compensation and better working conditions.
On Friday afternoon, about a dozen organizers celebrated in the parking lot behind the UNM building where hundreds of green paper ballots had just been counted by hand.
“I can’t believe it’s happening. I can’t believe it happened,” said an elated Jessamyn Lovell, a full-time lecturer in the Art Department who’s been working to set up the union for years.
Out of the 1,516 eligible faculty, more than two-thirds turned out to vote this week across UNM campuses, in Albuquerque, Gallup, Taos, Los Alamos and Valencia County. UNM Health Sciences Center faculty were excluded from the bargaining units.
Next month, Lovell said, it’ll be back to meeting with and surveying union members to find out what’s most important to them in upcoming negotiations with UNM. “We’re gonna just really focus on the collective bargaining process,” said Lovell, “and who is gonna be in the room at the table, and what those priorities are gonna be, and those will be based on what our members tell us.”
Part-time or temporary faculty overwhelmingly approved the union by 89 percent, with 259 voting yes out of 288 who cast ballots. On the voter rolls negotiated earlier this year between the university and the union, there were a total of 488 eligible voters for the part-time unit.
Full-time or continuing faculty were more split with 62 percent voting in favor. Out of the 804 full-time faculty who voted, 500 were in favor. There were 1,028 employees eligible to vote on the full-time unit.
Between the two bargaining units, there were 75 ballots cast by people who were not on the pre-approved voter lists. “Challenged ballots don’t get opened unless they would make a difference in the election, and here they fell far short. So there would be no need to look at the challenged ballots," said attorney James Montalbano with the Youtz and Valdez law firm, who represent UA-UNM.
The union and the university each have five days to raise any concerns about the election process.
Union members expect the New Mexico Labor Board to certify the results on Friday, Oct. 25.
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