The University of New Mexico continues its commitment to a model of shared governance and academic freedom, which includes open lines of direct communication with faculty on the issues that are most important to them and offers a platform for the perspectives and voices of our talented and diverse researchers and scholars. We hope to continue working directly with all of our faculty members on these matters going forward because, in our view, the University community – comprised of its faculty, staff, and students – is in the best position to address these issues, including matters such as governance, compensation, and professional opportunities.
That being said, the University respects the legal rights of faculty to determine whether or not to relinquish to a union their existing rights to work directly with the University on their compensation, shared governance, terms of appointment, benefits, and working conditions. This is an important decision that can have a profound impact on all faculty, whether or not they are determined to be part of a bargaining unit, and on our entire University community. When the scope of the bargaining unit(s) is determined, we urge all faculty members who are part of that unit(s) to fully inform themselves by reviewing all relevant information available to them – including information about their current terms and conditions of employment, about the UA-UNM, and about the collective bargaining process itself – and then to cast a ballot based on a personal assessment of what is in his or her best interest. To assist faculty members in this endeavor, the University is committed to ensuring that potential bargaining unit members have access to sufficient factual information that will enable informed and reasoned decision-making. Again, the University encourages all faculty to seek as much information as possible, ask questions, explore the pros and cons of unionization and thoroughly examine the associated complex issues.
Yes, UNM has engaged Jackson Lewis, a premier labor and employment law firm recognized nationally for the quality of their work. This is a highly specialized area of the law and as is customary in such legal proceedings, both the university and the UA-UNM are using outside legal counsel to provide representation and to advise on the respective rights and obligations of the parties. UNM has previously worked with Jackson Lewis, which maintains a local Albuquerque office, on labor and employment matters. But Jackson Lewis will work under the direction of the UNM President and will not drive the direction of the University’s response. That decision will be made by the President, in consultation with UNM senior leadership and the Board of Regents, under authority delegated by the Board of Regents. The contract with Jackson Lewis was finalized on March 6, 2019 and is capped at $60,000.
Union Organizing Process
The New Mexico Public Employees Bargaining Act (NMSA 1978, § 10-7E-1 et. seq.) and UNM Labor Management Relations Resolution allow a union to be certified when, at the close of a comprehensive organizing process, a labor union representative demonstrates a showing of majority interest by employees in the proposed bargaining unit. To become certified by The University of New Mexico Labor Management Relations Board (“the Board”), a union has to file a petition for representation with the Board seeking an election in an appropriate unit of employees. The UA-UNM filed such a petition in February 2019 seeking to represent “all full-time and part-time faculty whose primary job is instruction and/or research and who are employed at the Main Campus (Albuquerque), as well as the branch campuses located in Gallup, Taos, Los Alamos, and Valencia,” but excludes instructors in the Health Sciences (School of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, College of Population Health).
When filing a petition for an election, a union must demonstrate a "showing of interest" that at least 30 percent of the employees in the proposed unit are interested in having the union represent them. This showing of interest is satisfied by the submission of membership or authorization cards signed by individual employees in employment positions within the proposed bargaining unit indicating such interest. The authorization card is a legal document. Anyone considering signing an authorization card should read it carefully and be sure all questions are answered before doing so.
Once a union submits a sufficient showing of interest, the employer is given the opportunity to submit its position on the union’s proposed bargaining unit. The employer may take this opportunity to dispute the composition of the proposed bargaining unit as improper for a number of reasons, including that the employees identified for bargaining are legally barred from membership in a union because they are management, supervisory, confidential, or probationary, or otherwise do not meet the statutory definition of “public employee.” The employer can also challenge the composition of the proposed bargaining unit because the employees identified for membership do not share a sufficient “community of interest” with each other.
After the employer submits its petition, the Board is tasked with addressing any disputes regarding the composition of the bargaining unit as proposed to determine what the appropriate bargaining unit(s) might be. These disputes can be addressed through negotiations by the parties or through a formal hearing process. Once these disputes are addressed, the employer and union may proceed to an election process whereby the members of the proposed unit vote on whether to have the union represent them.
Signing an authorization card means that the employee has declared that he or she wishes to be represented for the purposes of collective bargaining by the petitioning labor organization.
An “appropriate bargaining unit” is a legal term describing a group of employees who share a community of interest amongst one another with regard to compensation and working conditions and is otherwise appropriate for bargaining under the law. In its response to the Petition filed by the UA-UNM, the University has challenged the appropriateness of the unit identified in the Petition. This legal argument may be resolved through discussions between the University and the UA-UNM or by the Board after it reviews the legal arguments and evidence presented by the parties.
No. According to the New Mexico Public Employees Bargaining Act and UNM Labor Management Relations Resolution, the Board, in consideration of the representation petition filed by UA-UNM and the University’s response to the petition, is tasked with designating the appropriate bargaining unit. Appropriate bargaining units are established on the basis of occupational groups, or clear and identifiable community of interest in employment terms, employment conditions, and related personnel matters among the employees involved. Regular employees who are not management, supervisory, confidential, or probationary (as defined below) may be eligible to join bargaining units. If the Union and UNM cannot agree on the appropriate bargaining unit within 30 days of the filing of the petition, the Board will hold a hearing concerning the composition of the bargaining unit. Any agreement as to the appropriate bargaining unit between the employer and the labor organization is subject to the approval of the Board.
- Probationary employees: those employees who have held his or her position, or a related position for less than the probationary period provided state statute or regulation.
- Supervisors: those with the authority to hire, promote, evaluate the performance, and terminate the employment of other employees.
- Managers: those who formulate and effectuate management policy and exercise independent judgment.
- Confidential employees: those who work for managers who set labor policy for the University.
As stated above, managers, supervisors, confidential employees, and probationary employees are prohibited by the New Mexico Public Employees Bargaining Act and UNM Labor Management Relations Resolution from joining a bargaining unit.
Both UNM and the UA-UNM will have a position as to whether you, as a faculty member, are an appropriate member of the bargaining unit. The University and the UA-UNM may agree on that issue, or we may not. Ultimately, the Board determines whether you are a member of the bargaining unit.
The Board will conduct an anonymous ballot election. If your employment position is in the designated bargaining unit, you will have the opportunity to vote whether you want to be represented by the union. Only you will know your vote.
Yes, but not easily. Unions do not stand for reelection each year. Once a contract is agreed upon, decertification is barred during the life of a contract of three years or less and for the first three years of a contract longer than three years. It is extremely rare for a union to be decertified once the first collective bargaining agreement has been negotiated.
However, the law does provide a mechanism for holding another election to determine if the bargaining unit members still wish to be represented by a union. In order to have such an election to decertify a union, the employees in the unit must themselves file a decertification petition with the Board, along with a 30 percent showing of interest, just as in the certification process. The Board would then process the petition and hold another election.
Yes. The UNM Labor Management Relations Resolution provides that “Public employees, other than management, supervisory, confidential, and probationary employees, may form, join or assist a labor organization for the purpose of collective bargaining through representatives chosen by public employees without interference, restraint or coercion. Employees also have the right to refuse to form, join, or assist any labor organization.” However, once a union is certified as the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit, the union represents everyone in a position within the bargaining unit. This means that every employee who holds an employment position that is identified as being in the bargaining unit will be subject to whatever collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is reached between the Union and UNM.
Pursuant to the New Mexico Public Employees Bargaining Act and the UNM Labor Management Relations Resolution, the University will retain the right to direct the work of, hire, promote, assign, transfer, discipline, or terminate Union members; determine Union members’ qualifications for employment and the nature and content of personnel examinations; take actions that may be necessary to carry out the mission of UNM in emergencies; and all other rights not specifically limited by a CBA or the PEBA. However, many other terms and conditions of employment would be subject to negotiation with the Union.
Unionization in the Workplace
If the Board, after an election, certifies the Union it first and foremost means the Union is authorized to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for the employees in the bargaining unit, on all matters involving wages, benefits, hours and other terms and conditions of employment. It means that the University must engage with the Union on all such matters, and your Department Chair or Program Manager may no longer deal with you individually with respect to the terms and conditions of your employment.
Yes. Anyone employed in a classification included within the bargaining unit would be represented exclusively by the Union and be subject to the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the University and the Union.
Dues will vary considerably from union to union. Some unions will charge between 1-2% of your salary each year. Others will charge you a flat amount per pay period. Unions revisit dues and raise them from time to time.
Basics of Collective Bargaining
At some point, the Union and the University would engage in collective bargaining for a contract, called a collective bargaining agreement, covering all the employees in the bargaining unit.
It is the process by which an employer and a union negotiate wages, benefits, hours and other terms and conditions of employment for the group represented by the union.
If the faculty were to elect union representation, in our research university environment, UNM would expect to propose during collective bargaining that the parties’ CBA include provisions that would systematically foster excellence in research, teaching, client service, community engagement, and global engagement—including merit pay for demonstrated excellence, capacity to make retention offers to excellent faculty, etc. Such provisions are uncommon in collective bargaining agreements, and could only be included in the CBA if the Union would agree to them. UNM believes the absence of such provisions would undercut our ability to foster excellence as a research university and compete nationally for faculty talent.
Yes and no. The law requires that the parties negotiate a grievance procedure that culminates in final and binding arbitration. Otherwise, the law only requires that each side engage in good faith negotiations over the terms and conditions of employment. Bargaining in good faith shall not require either party to agree to a proposal or to make a concession.
If the Union is certified, New Mexico law requires the University to bargain in good faith with the Union representative(s) on wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Merit or equity pay increases would likely be mandatory subjects of bargaining and would have to be negotiated between the University and the Union. The University would not be permitted to have direct dealings with employees concerning mandatory subjects of bargaining. Nor could the University unilaterally implement changes to the status quo on mandatory subjects of bargaining, such as giving individual faculty differentiated pay increases, unless an established policy expressly authorizes pay adjustments (for example, for retention purposes). This means faculty may have to wait for the University and the Union to negotiate a CBA before they will see any change in their pay.
The law further provides that collective bargaining agreements must contain a grievance resolution procedure culminating in final and binding arbitration of disputes. This usually requires disputes to be decided by an arbitrator selected by the University and the Union. The arbitrator would likely be an individual from outside of the University who may have no experience in academia. Thus, the arbitrator may or may not be familiar with shared governance, tenure rights or other terms and conditions of employment for faculty at a major research university like UNM.
Yes. If the Union is certified, the University administration would have a duty to engage exclusively with the Union concerning decisions pertaining to pay, hours, and working conditions. In other words, academic administrators would no longer be able to have direct interactions with individual faculty on these subjects.
If the parties fail to reach an agreement, and impasse is declared, either party may request mediation assistance. If the impasse continues after 30 calendar days, either party may request arbitration. The arbitrator shall render a final, binding, written decision resolving unresolved issues no later than 30 calendar days after the arbitrator has been notified of his or her selection by the parties. The arbitrator’s decision shall be limited to a selection of one of the two parties’ complete, last, best offer. In the event an impasse continues after the expiration of a contract, the existing contract will continue in full force and effect until it is replaced by a subsequent written agreement. In determining which of the parties’ last, best offer to select, arbitrators are prohibited by the New Mexico Public Employees Bargaining Act and UNM Labor Management Resolution from requiring the University to re-appropriate or reallocate funds.
The subjects of collective bargaining are wages, hours, and conditions of employment. The insertion of a union between you and your Department Chair or Program Manager may potentially limit direct exchanges concerning issues of importance to you. How much direct “voice” you would be allowed would depend upon the terms of a potential collective bargaining agreement. For example, workload may be governed by the collective bargaining agreement in a way that limits the discretion of a Department Chair or Program Manager to appoint you to teach the course load you would like to teach.
Unions typically are not involved in broader issues related to educational policy, such as admissions requirements, degree requirements and confirmation, curricular changes, and academic program changes. These matters continue to be part of the legislative functions of the Faculty Senate. But, on disputes such as workload, pay, and the manner in which grievances are processed, the Union’s statutory authority as the exclusive representative of the faculty would likely supersede the rights of the Faculty Senate in regard to these mandatory subjects of bargaining that are negotiated into the CBA.
Under New Mexico law, faculty who are in a bargaining unit at a public university do not have the right to strike. Strikes are explicitly prohibited under the New Mexico Public Employees Bargaining Act and UNM Labor Management Relations Resolution.
Communication and Access
No. Union officials are not allowed to disrupt or interfere with faculty performing their normal work activities. This does not preclude making space available for meetings involving union officials in the same manner as any other requests for meeting rooms for non-departmental activities or purposes.
When unions seek to represent faculty, union officials and faculty supportive of union representation often approach faculty in classrooms at the end of class, in their offices and sometimes even at home. Obviously, discussions about union representation must not interrupt classroom instruction, laboratory exercises or faculty office hours. Outside of those settings, faculty are free to decide whether they want to engage in these discussions. New Mexico law leaves this decision to each individual faculty member.