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The University of New Mexico’s graduate student union “UNM Grad Workers United” held a town hall meeting on Feb. 12 to discuss their plans on achieving livable compensation and control over their work environment.

A number of graduate workers from different departments attended the meeting to go over their plan of action. Since the rally where several hundred supporters attended on campus and in front of UNM President Garnett Stokes’ house on Jan. 27, the union has collected a number of responses and support in order to get their demands met.

The union filed for union recognition with the State Labor Board after reaching “supermajority” status back on Dec. 9. The university has refused to negotiate with the union claiming the relationship between the two as “purely educational”.

Since the protest, the union has developed a bargaining survey going forward with no push back. 

“We are doing this without letting the legal process affect how we are proceeding because we already have a collective majority. We just need to be accepted by the New Mexico Labor Board,” political science graduate assistant Samantha Cooney explains. “We are not letting the legal process deter our progress towards unionization.”

The union’s bargaining survey was launched the morning of the town hall meeting. So far, a number of UNM grad employees responded by vocalizing their concerns within their own respective graduate programs concerning better pay, benefits and work conditions. 

Why Protest?

According to UNM, the salary for all teaching and graduate assistants was $19,561. Coupled with insurance payments and tuition reimbursement, the average GA receives a compensation of $28,432. GA’s say that over the last five years, graduate assistants have received a raise of $141.

While benefits are paid for the assistant, one UNM grad worker explained how “adding his wife and child to his insurance plan is 30 percent of his income.”

The union is currently moving forward with their committees, working toward building solidarity with other union groups and organizations on campus and developing a mutual aid program.

“It’s disappointing to see them fight our union,” Cooney says. “A union is put into place to make the graduate programs better, so seeing President Stokes and UNM fight this union so hard, completely contradicts that diversity push they’ve been aiming for so many years.”

The union is currently preparing statements for the legal proceeding on March. 30

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