UNM United Graduate Workers Ratify First Collective Bargaining Agreement with University

December 19, 2022

Following several months of bargaining with the University of New Mexico, the membership of the United Graduate Workers (UGW-UE 1466) has voted to approve their first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with UNM. The CBA has provisions for salary increases for all graduate workers including a 10% raise to graduate workers earning the minimum, protects existing health insurance coverage, provides for paid medical and bereavement leave, and contains a robust grievance procedure. Outside the CBA, graduate workers negotiated for and secured a commitment from the University to reimburse the SEVIS fee for all incoming international graduate students.

Following a successful lunch time walk out on December 7th attended by over 200 people, several aspects of the contract were finalized during the final session of bargaining, such as the inclusion of research assistants in salary increases, a reimbursement of the SEVIS fee required of international graduate workers, and a commitment to not increasing the health insurance cost burden on graduate workers. Another important aspect of the contract is its duration - the CBA enshrines a reopener to discuss compensation in Fall 2023, and the entire contract reopens for negotiation in Fall 2024.

“With immediate 10% raises to those paid at the minimum, our organizing and actions over the last two years secured the strongest first contract in decades amongst public sector graduate workers nationally,” said Laura Martin-Levensailor, “the sad reality is that we were dealing with a University that has failed to offer any meaningful wage increases in over 12 years and fought us over every penny. We are already preparing to negotiate for the wage increases graduate workers need and deserve in our reopener this fall”.  

Of the 454 votes cast in the ratification vote, 437 members voted to ratify the CBA, and 17 members voted against ratification, for a 96.3% approval.

Beyond the contract ratification vote itself, UGW membership also passed a resolution on whether or not the union should join with other unions across New Mexico to push for reforms to the New Mexico Public Employee Bargaining Act, particularly to its blanket ban on striking for public unions. In the wake of the ongoing strike of UAW across the University of California system, members feel it is important to have the same legal protections in New Mexico in order to make more progress in future contracts. This measure passed with 417 in favor, 32 abstaining, and 5 no, for a total 91.9% approval.

To arrange an interview with a graduate worker, please contact Ian Birdwell by email at ibirdwell@unm.edu.