Hundreds of graduate workers picket UNM campus

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico graduate workers were for the first of their kind to unionize in the state.

“We teach, we grade, we deserve a raise.”

On Tuesday, graduate workers were stopping traffic while trying to make their voices heard after another round of bargaining with the university.

“In one of the recent bargaining sessions, they informed us that they were going to try and make us start paying 20% of our insurance costs, which is currently not the standard, most departments are able to – graduate workers are able to have all of their insurance covered,” said Christian Rhoads, one of the picket organizers.

Rhoads is a graduate worker. In that recent bargaining session, he said UNM told them they also owe back pay on the past year of insurance costs.

The union stopped traffic near Dane Smith Hall, at Las Lomas and Yale.

“It is very close to the main road, a lot of traffic comes through here,” Rhoads said. “We really wanted to be able to emphasize the impact that graduate workers have on the university as a whole.”

Rhoads said they are the first graduate workers union in the state, which is paving the way for other unions.

The union has given UNM a deadline of Dec. 7 to come to an agreement.

KOB 4 reached out to UNM about the picket. Cinnamon Blair, the university’s chief marketing and communications officer, shared the following statement:

“As required by state law and respectful negotiating practice, the University has continued not comment on the details of active negotiations.

However, we are disappointed in today’s UGW-UE protest, as their disruptive tactics went beyond a free speech activity, including blocking traffic and entering people’s personal workspace.

Moreover, UGW-UE leaders signed and jointly filed a letter crafted by UNM to the Attorney General requesting clarification on a state law that does not allow state employers to pay more than 80% of an employee’s insurance premium. The parties also both agree that it would be optimal for UNM to continue to pay 100% of the insurance premiums. The petition circulated today is a misrepresentation of the position of both parties, which is clearly reflected in this letter.”