Hello! Below, we’ve gathered a few of our more frequently asked questions — take a look, and see if your questions are addressed here. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try contacting us directly!
Q: What is a Union?
A: Unions are the workers’ tool for organizing for better working conditions. In essence, a union is a group of coworkers who have decided to bargain collectively for things they’d like to improve in their workplace.
Q: Can NMSU Graduate Workers form a Union?
A: Yes! We are considered state employees and are covered under New Mexico labor law. New Mexico is one of 26 states that allow public sector employees to unionize. Of those 26 states, 62% have universities with graduate student unions. Currently, over 64,000 graduate employees at public universities like NMSU are in unions.
Q: Why Unionize?
A: Actually, followup Q: Do you really think you’re being treated fairly? Unlike most to all of our peer institutions, NMSU does not provide its graduate workers with health insurance, tuition remission, or guaranteed summer employment. Check out our Why Unionize Page for more specifics, but it is an indisputable fact that graduate workers at other universities have unionized, and they have negotiated higher salaries, regular stipend increases, tuition reimbursement, better benefits, restrictions of overwork, paid childcare — the list goes on. As an example of some endemic problems at NMSU, see the below figure:
Q: How do we form a Union?
A: Under New Mexico law, when a majority of employees sign union cards indicating their support for the union, then their employer (the University in this case) must recognize the union. You can read more information about the law on the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board website.
Q: Can the University Stop us?
A: No. Under New Mexico law, all public employees have the right to form a union and bargain collectively with their employer. We are the ones who decide to unionize, not the university regents, administrators, or anyone else. It is also absolutely illegal under NM law for the University to retaliate against a graduate worker who supports unionization; this includes international students.
Q: Who runs the Union?
A: We will, NMSU graduate workers. UE is known for its commitment to democracy, meaning that all of the decisions impacting us will be made by us. Their slogan and guiding philosophy is that, “The Members Run This Union.”
Q: Can international students join a Union?
A: YES. International students enjoy all the same labor protections as domestic students would. You can support and join a union without fear of retaliation. Any such retaliation is illegal. Read more about the rights of international students to unionize here.
Q: What can the union do for international student employees?
A: International students have won significant benefits through unionization on other campuses. In addition to winning higher stipends and fair tuition reimbursement, grad worker unions can bargain for stable and affordable health insurance. Unions have won elimination of fees applying to international students, affordable family housing, summer employment guarantees, protections against overwork, prohibitions against discrimination and harassment, legal support specifically for international students, and more. Read more about what unions have won for international students here.
Q: How much are union dues?
A: As part of the UE, we will not pay ANY union dues until the first union contract is ratified. That is, more specifically, we will not pay a single cent in union dues until our gained benefits are guaranteed, and heavily outweigh any dues payment.
Once we win our contract, dues will be 1.44% of our salary. Since that refers to your salary after we get a contract with benefits (at which point we expect our salaries to improve substantially), there’s not a specific dollar amount at the moment that we can provide, just that it will be 1.44% of our salary.
Our dues will go to endure that our union is strong and can enforce the contract we negotiate with the University.
Q: Does the University have the money to improve conditions for graduate employees?
A: Yes. Graduate employees produce far more value than we cost, by writing papers, publishing, presenting, going to conferences, teaching, grading, etc. Our labor is integral to achieving NMSU’s core mission.
NMSU Main Campus has a $550 million budget per year, and spends a total of $19.5 million on all GA’s (which is just over 3%). It actually works out to less than that, because most GA’s are required to pay 9 credit-hours of tuition. Even if you have a grant, the university gets tuition money from your grant.
It comes down to priorities. If you, like many other GA’s at NMSU, are hired to work 20 hours a week for just the 9-month academic year, and you pay tuition, the salary of Chancellor Arvizu could pay for forty-two of you. There’s enough money, they would just rather spend it on Pistol Pete statuary and more upper administration positions. Here’s a look at how top-heavy NMSU actually is:
Q: But can’t we fix these problems without a union?
A: Unfortunately, no. Graduate students at NMSU have absolutely tried, and have been trying for years. In the past five (5) years since 2016, there have been:
- At least six (6) Task Forces dedicated to tuition, health insurance, GA allocation, etc.
- Four (4) different health insurance plans for international students only
- Two (2) University Presidents
- Two (2) Graduate Deans
- Three (3) student regents (all of whom voted repeatedly for tuition increases)
- One (1) external review of the graduate school, which listed several of our demands in their recommendation document
- Multiple departmental graduate program reviews, also listing our demands among their recommendations
- The addition of a $500,000/year salaried chancellorship
- The addition of a $317,900/year salaried vice chancellorship
- An open letter by members of this group, published in several forms (which the administration never responded to. The text can be found here).
Despite all of this effort, the Administration has not agreed to any substantial systematic changes. We have tried to work within the system of the university to solve our problems, but it hasn’t worked. For a further example, we are, at the time of writing, ten (10) months into a declared global pandemic which has killed at least 400,000 Americans, and there is still no timeline on when the domestic graduate students at NMSU can expect health insurance.