Bargaining Updates

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. 

Please continue to provide your own experiences with the ongoing problems facing grad workers.

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