Local 1466 Reopener Wins Historic Raises for Lowest-Paid Workers

June 10, 2024

Members of Local 1466, the United Graduate Workers of UNM, won 30 percent raises for project assistants, the lowest paid workers in the bargaining unit, during their reopener which began April 8, 2024. The members, who are graduate workers at the University of New Mexico, began their second compensation bargaining reopener with the UNM administration stalling for three hours before adjourning the day’s meeting without providing a counter proposal. It was clear to all members of the local’s bargaining team that the administration was ill-prepared to meet with us at the bargaining table. 

On the second day of bargaining, members filled the hallway outside of the bargaining rooms with signs reading “Sure wish I could afford to eat” and “Ask me if I make a living wage,” in order to remind the administration bargaining team that our general membership was paying close attention to the negotiations. The administration came back to the table with a measly three percent across-the-board raise and refused to guarantee that raise for research assistants (RAs). Local 1466’s bargaining team held firm on including RAs in any across-the-board raises and raises that would bring graduate workers as close to a living wage in Albuquerque as possible, but the administration returned with only a four percent across-the-board raise, and continued to refuse to extend that raise to RAs.

In response, members planned a course of action that included a living wage petition and a rally outside of UNM administration’s main offices on April 23, the day after the next scheduled bargaining session. More than 300 graduate workers participated in this rally and a majority of the bargaining unit signed the petition demanding UNM pay graduate workers a living wage, with a total of 1,100 graduate students and community members signing the petition. In response, the administration moved to include stronger language for RAs to be included in all raises, but still offered only minimal increases to their wage proposals.

Graduate workers fill a hallway with signs saying Wish I Could Buy Food and demanding fair pay

The members held another action on May 1 to push the administration towards a more substantial movement — a picket of an intersection leading to Scholes Hall where a meeting of the UNM Board of Regents was being held. During this meeting, the regents were discussing their strategy for negotiations, and our general membership made it clear to the regents that the university could only run if we allowed it to do so.

Bargaining was dragged out through the end of finals week by the administration’s team, banking on our diminishing capacity to muster graduate workers during the busy final weeks of the semester. In the end, after a total of eight bargaining sessions and a lot of frustrating filibustering by the administration, the union bargaining team signed a tentative agreement that ensured a thorough process vetting any claims of lack of funding for RA raises, a 30 percent increase to project assistant minimums, a 12 percent increase to graduate assistant minimums, and a 4.5 percent across-the-board raise that got the average graduate worker a seven percent raise from our last contract negotiations. On May 18, the Local 1466 membership voted to ratify the tentative agreement.

Throughout the month and a half long negotiations, the incompetence of the administration’s bargaining team was evident. They frequently left the union bargaining team to wait for hours, only to extend bargaining to another day as they scrambled to put together counter proposals, and they often had no idea of the overall cost of their own proposals. With graduate workers’ salaries accounting for only approximately 1.5 percent of UNM’s budget of over a billion and a half dollars, there is certainly room to ensure that graduate workers and their families do not go hungry and houseless while contributing millions to the university through their labor. Local 1466-UGW’s leadership and membership know that the fight for a living wage will be a long road, but we are committed to continuing along the path towards equitable compensation for all graduate workers while getting money into the pockets of our workers now.  

Local 1466’s bargaining team consisted of President Lexi Kenis, Vice President Ramona Malczynski, Treasurer Ian Birdwell, Clerk Anjali Dvorak, Data Chair Zach Strasberg, Communications Chair Megan Hoffman, and Chief Stewards Anna Rose, Dominic Oddo, Alex Baten, Josh Heckman-Archibeque, Alicia Esquivel, and Jarrod Ronquillo. Malcyznski and Oddo served as co-lead negotiators They were assisted by Field Organizer Liz Solis.


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