UNM graduate workers rally, petition for better pay

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Graduate student workers at the University of New Mexico are now recognized as regular employees, under the Public Employee Bargaining Act, paving the way for them to form a union.

"We’re asking UNM to respect and uphold the recommendation to see graduate workers as employees and sit at the bargaining table this semester,” said graduate worker, Natalia Toscano.

Hundreds of students marched directly to the UNM president’s office Friday, delivering a petition with more than 1,600 signatures. It demands the university start negotiations on higher wages, adequate health insurance coverage, and better working conditions.

“The graduate contract will ensure that all workers are getting the fair wages that they deserve, the living wages that we deserve, that we’re getting benefits, dental, vision, especially in a pandemic where our health is so uncertain,” Toscano said. “If I get sick, I told my students I’m not coming to campus. I’m not going to put you or any other student at risk."

A teaching assistant we spoke with says UNM keeps putting this conversation on hold. "UNM can voluntarily recognize us at any time,” said Emma Mincks. “They need to stop stalling; stop delaying the bargaining process."

According to the Public Employee Bargaining Act, the university is required to listen to graduate workers, but it does not have to agree to anything they propose.

KOB 4 reached out to UNM officials and received the following statement:

“UNM’s graduate programs, and our graduate student learners and researchers, contribute greatly to the University and are also crucial to the development of the advanced workforce within New Mexico. There are matters still under consideration by the labor board, which has not yet certified a union for teaching assistants or research assistants.”