Labor Board Certifies NMSU Graduate Workers Union

May 4, 2022

Graduate Workers Can Now Negotiate to Improve Wages, Benefits, and Working Conditions

Media Contact: Anna Rose, 505-907-3757,

The state labor board has voted to certify a labor union for over 900 graduate employees at New Mexico State University. Graduate employees who teach and conduct research for NMSU are now able to collectively bargain under the state’s Public Employee Bargaining Act to address the poverty wages, inadequate access to medical care, and tuition costs that are currently forcing many graduate workers to leave the university. 

“I am stoked that the labor board has finally recognized the facts: graduate workers are employees, and we have the right to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions”, said Dan Vargo in Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology. “Now that the labor board has certified our union, we’re looking forward to starting the work of negotiating a contract for fair pay, tuition remittance, and health insurance to address the inexcusable conditions that graduate workers now face. We’re hopeful that NMSU will work with us to address these issues.”

Unlike graduate employees at the vast majority of peer institutions, NMSU graduate workers are forced to “pay to work,” paying over $6,000 a year in tuition and fees. After paying tuition and fees, the average NMSU graduate worker earns an annual stipend of just $12,123 — a number far below the federal poverty line of $13,590 for a single adult with no dependents. Additionally, NMSU graduate workers are not offered health insurance beyond the costly minimum coverage legally required for international employees, leaving workers to make difficult choices between basic necessities. Graduate workers at NMSU filed for union recognition with clear majority support in May of 2021 but certification was delayed for almost a year because NMSU administrators chose conflict over dialogue–repeatedly objecting and delaying the case.

“Our goals are aligned with the stated goals of the NMSU administration — we also want to strengthen our community and make this university a place where important academic advancements happen. But it’s not possible for graduate workers to empower NMSU when we’re left struggling to have our own material needs met” said Joshua Tise, a graduate worker  in the English department. “We hope that the NMSU administration will work hand-in-hand with us to ensure graduate workers are treated with dignity and, together, we can continue to help NMSU live up to its full and incredible potential.” 

NMSU graduate workers join 1,600 graduate workers at UNM whose union was certified this past spring. UNM graduate workers are beginning union negotiations this week. Both unions are affiliated with the UE Union, which has represented graduate employees since 1996.

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