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'Our working conditions are their learning conditions'

NMSU faculty petitions for union recognition


Hundreds of faculty at New Mexico State University, Doña Ana Community College and the university’s numerous campuses took a major step toward collective bargaining rights Friday with the announcement that they were filing a petition for union recognition with the state’s Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

The faculty union has been formulated as a local branch of the National Education Association of New Mexico, which represents public school teachers and other school staff. The organizing committee announced Friday it had submitted authorization cards representing a majority of employees who would be represented under the collective bargaining unit.

A simple majority of those employees is required for immediate recognition of the union. Professor Jamie Bronstein, a member of the organizing committee, told the Bulletin they had submitted 460 cards approving union representation out of a potential collective bargaining unit of 834 employees, comprising 55 percent. 

Organizers presented the union as a bulwark against frequent changes in the university’s leadership, which have come with changes in policy and structure by way of a revolving door of top administrators. The university is currently conducting a search for its next president after a period where the university was led by a chancellor and president, and there have been a succession of provosts in recent years as well. 

“While the upper administration at NMSU is often in flux, faculty in the NMSU system demonstrate their commitment to the mission of the university by working there for decades,” Bronstein said in a news release, noting her own nearly 30 years of teaching history at the institution. “If we really want to build a robust university system, we must strengthen the collective voice of the faculty who support student success. Our working conditions are their learning conditions.” 

The organizers say that if their union is formally recognized for collective bargaining, the percentage of unionized university faculty in New Mexico will jump from 63 to 85 percent.

Through spokesperson Justin Bannister, the university released the following statement in response to the union petition:

“NMSU recognizes the critical importance of our faculty and the roles they serve across our university system. We look forward to continuing discussions on how the university as a whole can advance our land-grant mission of providing education, research and outreach to our region. We are hopeful that all of those engaged will work together to achieve positive results for our students and propel us forward in the coming years.”

The university entered into a collective bargaining agreement with graduate student workers, often handling teaching duties themselves, at the end of 2022. Their counterparts at the University of New Mexico organized around the same time, reflecting a national trend that has seen graduate student worker unions grow by 44 percent over two decades, according to one study. 

PELRB director Thomas Griego told the Bulletin that once the office receives the petition, the document and the authorization cards will be reviewed for any apparent deficiencies. In the event of problems, the union would typically have five days to cure any deficiencies. The labor board also verifies the number of employees that would be represented in the bargaining unit and posts a public notice that the union is recognized for collective bargaining purposes under the law. Griego also explained that while a simple majority of more than half the bargaining unit is required for union recognition, if at least 30 percent of the unit submits valid authorization cards, a union election would be scheduled. 

The process could take as few as 10 days from Monday, Griego said. 

NMSU, faculty, union, NEA-New Mexico, New Mexico State University