June 13, 2023:
We were back at the bargaining table with NMSU today to continue negotiations for increased tuition coverage. It was the university’s turn to provide a counter-proposal to our proposal which we introduced during the initial bargaining session last month, which requested increases in the number of credits covered and set specific timelines for when tuition refunds would be delivered.
After almost a month to come up with a response, NMSU’s counter proposal unfortunately failed to address any of our proposed items, even logistical items that don’t cost money. They did not even come prepared with information we had requested over a month ago.
The university wants to remain at the bare-minimum coverage agreed upon in the current bargaining contract and make no moves to improve the conditions for graduate workers at NMSU. Despite a significant amount of money being appropriated by the state for graduate worker tuition at this year’s legislative session, NMSU feels that the money they will save in tuition reimbursements could be better used to fill unrelated holes in their budget. When we asked where they planned to allocate tuition scholarship monies that will now be covered by new legislative funds they vaguely stated that “buildings needed repairs” as if NMSU does not already receive monies specifically for building maintenance and improvements.
We remain firm in our current proposal for increased tuition coverage and developing specific guidelines for disbursement of funds. Bargaining will resume next week, and we hope that NMSU will be able to provide an actual, adequate counter-proposal.
If you haven’t already, you can sign on to our letter to Provost Shoho asking him to respect our grievance process. If you have any extra time this summer and want to help the union out, check out our Action List for some ideas of how you can help sustain the grad worker movement at NMSU, or join our slack channel for the most recent updates on organizing, bargaining and actions.
September 30th, 2022:
- Today we proposed full tuition coverage for every graduate worker, a 10% salary increase, coverage of the international health insurance fee, and paid leave.
- Grad workers took our work to Hadley Hall today to remind Chancellor Arvizu that NMSU works because we do – check it out on twitter here
- We can win tuition and a fair contract this semester – if we show NMSU we are united and we expect them to settle our contract by December 9th.
- We need every grad worker to sign their name to our December 9th deadline petition here: https://nmsugrads.ueunion.org/dec9th/
The bargaining committee spent the morning working on securing appointment letters that are provided to graduate employees two weeks before the start of an assistantship and include a job description. We also signed a tentative agreement on protections from unjust discipline. In the afternoon we presented a full set of economic proposals leading with full tuition coverage.
Graduate workers from across the university have fought incredibly hard over the last two years. Finally, tuition coverage and fair pay for graduate workers at NMSU is within reach.
Negotiations will continue October 17th and we are determined to do everything in our power to win a contract that lifts our coworkers out of poverty and ensures no one has to pay to work. We need your help in showing NMSU they have no choice but to do the right thing and settle a fair contract with full tuition coverage this semester. Sign the deadline petition here.
September 13th, 2022:
- The good news: NMSU actually showed up to the bargaining table this week and delivered some overdue counter proposals.
- The bad news: their proposals continue to be underwhelming, insulting, and degrading. They have shown little motivation to move on key points of emphasis for graduate workers.
- Wondering who’s running the university and why they’re so committed to forcing us to pay tuition? So are we.
Two months after we proposed that graduate workers receive Appointment letters before starting their assistantships (including basic information such as job title, salary, supervisor, and work duties) the University finally made a counter proposal. We were pleased to see that the University understood the importance of receiving an appointment letter in advance of the start of a position, but disappointed by their reluctance to include any description of duties. When pressed by our bargaining team on why they didn’t want to include any description of job duties the University compared graduate assistants to interns, described the assistantship as a “learning experience”, and asserted that these were not “regular jobs”. These arguments didn’t work on the labor board for the last 2 years and they don’t impress us – we know how much real work graduate workers do to make this University function every single day.
The University proposed Union Rights that fail to meet the minimum requirements of the law (something of a trend for them). These rights fell well below the standard of other universities. They weren’t so conservative when it came to bargaining on Management’s Rights, proposing generous terms for themselves. The takeaway: The University proposed more rights for themselves and less for the Union. Of course we did not agree to this.
On September 15th the regents will be meeting at 9am in the Educational Services Building. These are the same regents who recently approved $15 million for a new locker room when it would only take $2.9 million to cover tuition for all graduate workers. NMSU’s bargaining committee answers directly to the Regents. It is critical that the regents understand that graduate workers will not tolerate canceled negotiating sessions, flimsy proposals, and another semester without tuition coverage. Negotiations will continue on September 30th, when we hope to resume discussion of economic proposals.
August 17th, 2022:
- We made significant progress on the grievance process and discipline protections
- The university has continued to refuse to solve the tuition crisis and sign the tuition MOU
- The Univeristy is still arguing that discrimination protections should not be enforceable
- We hit over 250 signatures emails to the chancellor. Send one here!
- Signed up new graduate workers at the orientation
- Confronted the chancellor today at his office hours: Sign the MOU Dr. Arvizu!
- Union members met with the governor today!
At bargaining today, the university moved in our direction for a more efficient grievance process. They removed some language that would needlessly extend the length of time that the process would take and agreed to several key elements of our proposal. We also made progress towards a fair agreement on discipline and discharge to protect our members from unfair treatment and terminations.
The university continued to hold the stance that basic non-discrimination grievances should not be enforceable within the contract. This means students who have experienced discrimination would continue to need to go through the months long process. They also continued to avoid signing the MOU, an offer that will solve the tuition crisis at any time they choose. This is unacceptable.
We’ve been busy signing up new members and spreading the word about bargaining. Just this week we’ve been out talking to new grad workers at move in day, attending grad student orientation, meeting with the governor on campus, and sending emails to the chancellor encouraging him to commit to tuition coverage.
Join us at 5pm on August 26th for a welcome back party at Preciado Park. Sign the RSVP here. The first 50 grads will get a free union T-shirt!
August 10th, 2022:
Please click this link to send an email to Chancellor Arvizu urging him to bargain in good faith and secure tuition coverage (the link includes a pre-written message to submit or replace with your own and takes less than 30 seconds!)
This morning’s bargaining session began with NMSU’s bargaining team agreeing to proceed with the discussion on language. At the last meeting the University submitted a flimsy proposal that would have covered $770 of tuition. Since they weren’t ready to bargain in good faith on tuition we moved forward with non-economic issues.
We made an agreement on two major non-economic proposals. These are great stepping stones to protecting our rights and building momentum towards economic issues. The agreements were on Union Recognition and International Student Labor Management.
We fulfilled one major goal in the disciplinary section by getting Just Cause into the contract! Just Cause is a legal term which includes protections from indiscriminate actions like being fired without justification. Concerningly, the university refused any language to allow workers who are being discriminated against to be protected under the grievance process, despite this being standard across New Mexico. Graduate workers need to be protected against discrimination and the university is fighting this clear cut issue.
The meeting closed with the Bargaining committee giving the university a Memorandum of Understanding on tuition. This allows the university to solve the tuition crisis at any time they choose. They can pull the release valve at any time they choose.
The Bargaining committee is working hard to make sure that we get a good contract for us all. You can support us by getting involved!
Let’s do this because NMSU works because we do. Our next bargaining session will be Wednesday, August 17th.
July 26th, 2022:
Before negotiations began this morning, we were honored to be joined by the Faculty Senate Chair, Dr. Gaylene Fasenko. Dr. Fasenko shared a statement of support signed by over 130 faculty members encouraging the University to negotiate with us in good faith to secure tuition and a fair contract.
The University bargaining team did not take this message. Instead, they chose to bring a proposal that trivialized the severe financial crisis graduate workers are facing. The University proposed the creation of a “scholarship fund” that would provide $770 per semester to graduate workers who are employed for at least 20 hours a week. This works out to about 51$ per week when the average graduate worker pays between 6,000$ and 8,000$ each year for tuition. Additionally, any scholarship, grant, or other funding will count against this, for example receiving a 500$ scholarship will result in only 270$, while a 1000$ scholarship will result in nothing.
In anticipation of the tuition proposal the University promised to give us, 30 members of the Organizing Committee joined the Union bargaining team to review the University’s “offer”. The University refused to hear these members out. They slammed the door in our faces and shut themselves in a conference room instead of listening to their employees.
The union busting lawyer that NMSU employs for 195$ per hour (!) doesn’t spend their time in Las Cruces while we aren’t bargaining. To get our message across we need to make it clear to the university administrators that we need good faith proposals at our next bargaining session which is Wednesday, August 10th.
July 11th, 2022:
At 8:30 this morning, before our negotiations began, 30 graduate workers delivered copies of our tuition petition (with 553 signatures!) to every member of the NMSU admin bargaining team calling for an urgent solution to the tuition crisis. Check it out on instagram here.
NMSU responded to the petition delivery by finally acknowledging the urgency of tuition coverage but then had the audacity to suggest that in exchange for the possibility of a tuition waiver the graduate union would forego negotiations on any other issue until next year. Our negotiating committee took several hours attempting to clarify the univeristy’s verbal suggestion (the University did not make this in a written proposal and did not yet include any numbers) because it is difficult to imagine that graduate workers would vote for a contract that doesnt include basic protections from harassment, discrimination, and overwork, union rights, and a grievance process (not to mention continued negotiations for wages and health insurance). As we know, the negotiating process is not final until the union members ratify the tentative agreements the bargaining committee has reached. Implying that we should sacrifice all of the other issues graduate workers are facing in exchange for tuition waivers (something our colleagues at peer institutions have enjoyed for years) is contrary to the spirit of negotiating.
It is disappointing that NMSU’s negotiating team seemed to have forgotten how negotiations work, but our committee remained adamant that we need tuition coverage, workplace protections, and further negotiations on wages and health insurance. We ended the day with the University commiting to bring a written tuition proposal to our next negotiating session on Tuesday, July 26th at 9am.
July 1st, 2022:
Our first negotiation session started on a bit of a contentious note with the University initially resisting a discussion on the tuition crisis. However, after a brief intermission, we moved steadily forward. The bargaining team remained resolute despite the university trying to derail the tuition discussion. We provided countless examples of the hardship that lack of coverage puts on our colleagues, and they seemed to realize that the tuition crisis was not going to be ignored.
Next, our committee presented proposals that covered several important non-economic issues that we need addressed. Among them, were recognition of our organization in university policy, transparent employee contracts and offer letters, protections from overwork, and international student protections and non-discrimination agreements.
We were able to conclude our meeting on an optimistic note for the tuition proposal. The University agreed to discuss tuition with the regents before our next negotiating session.
In summary, the bargaining committee strongly represented the student body’s concerns about tuition, as well as non-economic concerns. The committee feels that the strongly delivered statements of our fellow graduate students bolsters our tuition proposal. In particular, the committee emphasized the urgency of the tuition coverage. As one bargaining committee member put it, “urgent problems require urgent solutions.”
Our next negotiating session will be on July 11th with new meeting times scheduled for July 26th, August 10th, August 17th, and September 1st.
If you haven’t done so already, please sign the petition online now! You can access the petition here: www.nmsugrad.ueunion.org/petition