A: Faculty unions have been around since the early 1900s. If unions are truly beneficial then it is surprising that more of our peer research intensive universities don't have them. We would be wise not to rush to form a union but should try and understand the pros and cons. It seems that this entire process has been very rushed (initial announcement on Sept 17, vote on Oct 16-17). The list of those eligible to vote will be released only on Oct 2, after the originally announced Oct 1 deadline for absentee voting (now extended to Oct 4). The absentee voting procedure is unclear, cumbersome, and requires the statement of a reason for a vote, something that would not be allowed in city, state, or federal voting.
A: We are voting in the hope it will make things better. Do we know what the union will do different from the way things are right now? If the vote passes, who will be the leaders of the union? Check out the UA-UNM website to get an idea of the leadership and the goals. Most important, you should realize there is no path to reverse this course, should we find later that the faculty union as constituted does not meet our interests. Think Brexit! We are voting for an ill-defined union of faculty with differing interests, without clear bylaws or organization, into one bargaining unit. If you vote NO, it is still possible for the union organizers to come back one year later with a better-formulated proposal for faculty representation. But if you vote YES, the path to dissolve the union is virtually non-existent. As stated at the Univ. of Illinois, Springfield website “once a union is certified, it is there forever, it cannot be decertified!”
A: A quick perusal of the web shows that the number of faculty unions among the 131 research intensive universities (R1) is very small. These include Univ. of Oregon, Rutgers, SUNY and Univ. of Florida. UF faculty motivation for unionization was in part driven by concerns of State limitations on academic freedom, not a concern in NM.
The reason for why research universities such as UW have shied away from unions is the shared governance that exists at most research intensive universities. Faculty unions are more common among small public and private schools where the emphasis is on instruction. Furthermore, the research mission often involves temporary appointments such as postdocs and some research faculty. The reduced flexibility in hiring that comes with unions is likely to be at odds with the research mission and a reason why almost all research intensive universities like UNM have avoided a faculty union. This lack of flexibility may also deter prospective faculty to coming to UNM should we establish a faculty union. See the websites below for experience at the University of Washington and at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, both of which rejected the formation of a faculty union for tenure-track faculty.
A: UNM proposed that these groups be put into different bargaining units, but the union objected. The definition of the bargaining unit is the most troublesome aspect of this vote. It puts groups with different interests into one unit. While we share common goals in terms of educating students, our funding sources, the employment contracts and job expectations are vastly different for tenured/tenure-track faculty, research professors and lecturers. Our tenured faculty have rights and privileges already defined by UNM’s tenure policy. The types of longer-term contracting agreements that are generally in the interests of lecturers decrease our flexibility in maintaining employment for research faculty. Can one bargaining unit truly meet the needs of all three categories? Many other institutions that have unions create separate bargaining units for faculty with differing employment contracts. See the Univ. of Illinois Urbana-Champaign which only represents non-tenured faculty:
New Mexico Highlands University formed a faculty union in 2016. In August 2019, KOB news reported that NM Highlands University Officials are worried about declining number of faculty and are reporting its lowest number of tenured positions in school history. Faculty association president Kathy Jenkins says there is a certain level of dissatisfaction with some of the faculty that led them to start looking for employment elsewhere.
To gain a sense of perspective, you should examine the collective bargaining agreement at NMHU, especially take a close look at article 12, faculty workload. Now consider that at UNM the faculty workloads in terms of research, teaching and service vary widely across schools and colleges and among the three groups (tenure-track faculty, lecturers and research professors) who will form one bargaining unit that will likely normalize workloads across campus.
A:UNM staff already have a union, United Staff - UNM (US-UNM). You can view the agreement they reached with UNM, which provided the identical raise that was received by all other employees at UNM. Furthermore, the procedures to provide out of guidelines raises to UNM unionized staff are cumbersome. You should speak with staff in your department and find out their experience over the years so you can weigh the pros and cons. The union imposes an additional level of bureaucracy with no major gains in compensation or benefits.
A: This is currently unknown and we are told that this will be decided after the union is formed. We have no idea how disparities in salaries and teaching loads between departments will be handled. Some with lower salaries and higher teaching loads may demand equality without consideration of the research mission of the university. Each college has its own model and a uniform strategy may not be optimal. But once the union is formed it is very difficult to decertify. Including tenure-track faculty, lecturers, research professors and branch campuses into one bargaining unit makes it likely that the needs for such diverse groups cannot easily be met.
A: The exact dues will be determined after the vote, but we have been told they will be between 1-2% of your salary. If you feel there should be certainty before you vote, then you should vote accordingly, because it is extremely difficult to decertify the union. If the vote passes and a union is certified, then you will have a choice. Prior to 2018, unions were allowed to deduct “fair share” dues to cover their costs for representing your interests, even if you were not a union member. But the 2018 Supreme Court decision changed that. New Mexico is a right-to-work (RTW) state so non-union workers have the right to decide if they want to support the union or not. The state of New Mexico stopped deducting these so-called "fair share" dues in 2018 following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
For more detail see:
The collective bargaining negotiations however do impact non-union employees as they usually determine overarching compensation and workplace rules.
A: This is currently unknown and will only be understood after the union is in place. To gain a perspective, you can see the bargaining agreements at Rutger’s university for research faculty. If similar agreements are adopted at UNM, we will no longer be able to write short term contracts. This might make the employment of research faculty, or even postdocs, difficult or impossible. Very few faculty have access to multi-year funding at 100% of the salary. Federal funding agencies are often delayed in distributing awarded funding to universities, short term faculty contracts allow flexibility to bridge these time periods. This is an important issue that needs to be understood before we vote in favor of a union. While not all tenure-track faculty employ research faculty in their groups, research faculty are a critical part of the research mission at UNM, without which our Carnegie R1 research-intensive status may be put in jeopardy.
A: This is another significant unknown. It could happen that salaries are no longer in control of the PI since the union may mandate some changes. This could make giving merit raises difficult, or disallow giving pay commensurate with abilities and available resources. Currently research faculty salaries vary widely and in some cases exceed those of tenure-track faculty. But these are soft-funded positions, so imposing union requirements on these positions could have a major detrimental impact. Important issues such as these need to be fully understood before we vote in favor of a faculty union. We can always put off the vote until this is understood, but once the union is in place we will be forced to adopt uniform policies, some of which could affect how we do research and negatively impact excellence at UNM.