University of New Mexico fights state board ruling on graduate worker union | Education

The University of New Mexico filed a notice of appeal Friday in the second district court as part of an effort to prevent graduate workers from joining unions.

The university’s graduate assistants, who are striving for better salaries and health care benefits, petitioned for endorsement of a new negotiating unit with the state labor board in December 2020.

A hearing officer ruled in June that workers were not eligible to bargain with the university under the Public Employees Bargaining Act because they “did not expect to continue” their roles as assistants. The decision was overturned in August after an appeal by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. It was replaced by a temporary ruling that was not final. Supporters of this reversal say it applies to all graduates working in the state.

The final card verification process, in which graduates must prove they have sufficient support in favor of bargaining, is the last step before UNM United Graduates begin negotiations with the university. The university is asking the Public Employees Labor Relations Board to halt this process until the outcome of the appeal is known, arguing that if graduates are deemed ineligible to bargain, resources at multiple universities may be wasted amid attempts to form unions.

At New Mexico State University, graduate workers have shown majority support in favor of unions and are trying to get approval to form a collective bargaining unit, and the Public Employees Labor Relations Board is deciding whether they qualify to do so as public servants after the school’s local labor board was formally dissolved Monday.

Labor attorney Dina Holcomb represents both schools, while United Electric represents student workers.

“The motivation for the appeal, which has not yet been lodged, is that the university believes that PELRB was incorrect and broad in its rulings, and this case will set a precedent for all New Mexico research universities,” a spokeswoman for the University of New Mexico Cinnamon Blair said in a recent email to new mexican.

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