United Graduate Workers of UNM Members to Rally, Walk In to Work Together on First Day of School

August 22, 2022

Media Contact: Alana Bock, 619-370-3003, ajbock@unm.edu

On August 22 at 9am members of the United Graduate Workers of UNM (UGW-UE Local 1466) will hold a rally at the UNM bookstore and walk in to work together to start the fall semester. The graduate workers’ union is currently negotiating for a living wage, adequate benefits, and better working conditions for the 1600 graduate workers who are the backbone of teaching and research at UNM.

“By walking in to work together we aim to remind UNM administrators that graduate worker labor is essential to the university and the semester cannot officially begin until graduate workers show up”, said Joe Ukockis, graduate worker in the History Department. “Winning our first contract will be crucial in securing decent standards of living for current and future graduate workers and ending the current system of graduate exploitation at UNM."

According to a bargaining survey report, graduate teaching assistants served as instructors of record for 19.2% of undergraduate courses taught in Spring 2021, bringing in $12 million in tuition to the University. Graduate workers also work in laboratories, research groups, and archives, generating innovative and important research that benefits the community. UGW-UE 1466 began its card drive in September 2020, filed for union recognition December 2020, and after a long legal battle with UNM’s legal team, won recognition in January 2022. 

While UGW-UE 1466’s ultimate goal is to win a fair first contract, the fight for the rights of graduate workers extends beyond the bargaining table. Recently, the union delivered a letter, signed by over 200 graduate workers, to the Office of Graduate Studies at UNM after discovering that departmental raises written into Fall 2022 contracts were denied by the office at the counsel of UNM’s legal team. This is a gross misinterpretation of labor law and in response, the graduate union voted to approve the raises to nullify the University’s argument that these raises were made unilaterally. 

"Even though many of us are in our last year or otherwise will not see the benefits of a contract, the union has been an important development for UNM and the broader community," said Duncan McGraw, a Research Assistant in Optical Science and Engineering. "UGW is the first graduate worker union in New Mexico, and is part of a wave of recent graduate union organizing across the country. By fighting for a living wage and better benefits and conditions, our union will ensure that research breakthroughs and the education of undergraduates no longer rely on the exploitation of graduate workers."

To arrange an interview with a graduate worker or community spokesperson call Alana Bock at 619-370-3003.