Union FAQ – Faculty Answer Questions

•Why are we unionizing?
•What is a faculty union?
•What happens after we win the vote?
•What other universities have unions?
•Who is eligible to vote for UA-UNM?
•What resources does UA-UNM have access to?
•How will the union address diversity in the workplace?
•How will unionization affect shared governance?  Why do we need a union?
•Who will represent UA-UNM in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) process?   Why do we need a union?
•How much will dues be?
•Where do union dues go exactly and what do they pay for?
•What will happen to health and retirement benefits?
•What is our union’s position on merit pay and cost of living increases?

The following questions were asked by the Faculty Senate President at a recent Faculty Senate meeting:

•What is being done on our campus that the union will assume responsibility for? What are the things we will be working on together?

•What is it that the union would do that is not being done on our campus?

Why are we unionizing?

Faculty across the UNM system are voting yes for many reasons. Check out our social media pages for faculty responses to this question and others:

Facebook @UA-UNM

Twitter @UA-UNM

Instagram @unitedacademicsunm

Osbjorn Pearson, PhD
Associate Professor
UNM Main

What is a faculty union?

“Our faculty union is United Academics of UNM. We are a democratic collective that intends to ensure that all faculty are treated fairly in their interactions with UNM Administrators. UA-UNM is made up of full-time and part-time faculty from UNM-Albuquerque, UNM-Gallup, UNM-Los Alamos, UNM-Taos and UNM-Valencia. These faculty are committed to the ideas of transparency, shared governance, equity, diversity, inclusion, academic freedom, free speech and improving both student learning conditions and faculty working conditions.”

John Zimmerman
Professor of Fine Art

What happens after we win the vote?

“The UNM Labor Management Board certifies the election results and we move into our next phase of talking to our colleagues about bargaining priorities and developing our organizational infrastructure.”

Alexa Wheeler
Senior Lecturer III
Fine Arts
UNM – Valencia Campus

What other universities have unions?

“About one-third of universities in the U.S. are unionized, with a growing trend. Examples include the University of Oregon, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Rutgers. They are successful at negotiating overall raises and create pools of funds for merit, retention, and equity adjustments. Through forming their unions, they have ensured shared governance, protected academic freedom, and fostered an overall fair and transparent workplace. You can find their collective bargaining agreements online if you’d like to learn more. Visit our website at http://www.uaunm.org for more information and resources.”

Matias Fontenla
Associate Professor

Who is eligible to vote for UA-UNM?

“Our faculty union will include the majority of faculty across all UNM branches and will consist of two bargaining units. One unit consists of “full-time” faculty (Tenure and Tenure track, Lecturers, Instructors, and Research faculty), and one unit consists of “part-time” faculty (Term, Temporary and Part-time faculty). Our union is dedicated to constructing, coordinating, and preserving united aims across both of our bargaining units. Only Visiting Professors, Faculty

Working Retirees, Department Chairs, and some directors will not be eligible to vote in our upcoming election. However, we are committed to moving forward with the most inclusive union in the future.”

David Witherington
Associate Professor
UNM Main

What resources does UA-UNM have access to?

“From the beginning of this campaign, our union’s strength has come from the countless hours faculty volunteer each day to form our union. In addition, we have been working closely with our national affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), who represent faculty across the country.”

Matthew Mingus
Associate Professor

How will the union address diversity in the workplace?

“There are no current substantive efforts by the university to address diversity on this campus – so, frankly, the only way to go from here is up. The university has relied primarily on tokenism to address diversity without addressing the institutional issues on our campuses that continue to marginalize and harm us. The climate can only improve by ensuring through our collective bargaining that we make sure diversity and equity are integrated into the fabric of the university in meaningful ways. Creating actual diversity and equity policies and incorporating them into our contract has huge advantages. One important advantage is enforcement through the grievance and arbitration procedure, which provides genuinely independent adjudication far more quickly than the courts, government agencies, and our current ineffectual OEO office. Another advantage is being able to extend protections to groups that laws have been slow to protect or that are especially salient in an academic context. For example, we can decide to include anti-discrimination language that prohibits discrimination on the basis of “political belief and/or affiliation,” which is not a form of discrimination that is otherwise illegal.”

Myra Washington, Ph.D.
Communications & Journalism

How will unionization affect shared governance?  Why do we need a union?

“Although shared governance has made efforts to ensure faculty concerns and needs are considered by upper administration, faculty have yet to see: genuine representation for non-tenure track faculty in university decision making, pay increases that do not come with large hikes in health care cost, cost of living increases, efforts to retain faculty who get outside offers and leave as a result, unsafe workplace concerns addressed, or many other concerns repeatedly raised by faculty. Under the current model, the Board of Regents and President simply do not have to take our concerns seriously and have no real motivation to prioritize them if they choose not to.”

Jessamyn Lovell
Senior Lecturer
College of Fine Arts

Who will represent UA-UNM in the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) process?   Why do we need a union?

“The short answer is: we decide, we vote.Our participation in our Union will determine who is on the bargaining committee. After the election is successful is when we really need every union member to participate to help develop a strong, diverse leadership group, the Bargaining Committee will be one of the most crucial parts of that organization.”

Lee Montgomery
Associate Professor
Department of Art

How much will dues be?

Unions are member-supported organizations. National and historic trends suggest that when we decide what our priorities need to be as a union, dues to meet those needs will be about 1-2% of salary. As union members, we decide how much that will be and vote on it. You should consider that 1-2% dues an investment into increasing quality of life.”

William Brown
Temporary Faculty
Department of Math & Statistics

Where do union dues go exactly and what do they pay for?

Dues are used to support member-established priorities. Activities are proposed to members and approved by members. Possible expenses that our union will need to budget for are organizing, training, professional development, educational lobbying, collective bargaining, legal services, and contract enforcement. Members will determine how we prioritize these expenses. –

Ilia Rodriguez
Associate Professor
Communication and Journalism

What will happen to health and retirement benefits?

After we win our union recognition on October 16 and 17, the members of our union will determine our priorities. Retirement benefits can’t legally be renegotiated in NM, but health insurance will be negotiated if that’s what we decide we want to do. For examples of what other faculty unions have done for their members, you can find their contracts on our website. Temple University’s faculty union, for example, has prioritized getting benefits for part-time instructors; they’ve won gradual improvements in health insurance for adjuncts, beginning with their first contract in 2014. In 2009, health insurance cost faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences between 3-4% of monthly income; in Spring 2019, health insurance was up to 10-11%. More recently, we’ve faced another massive increase in our health insurance rates beginning with our August paychecks. This means a net decrease in real salary, despite recent “raises.” If you’re unlucky enough to actually need it, you’ll find that our expensive health insurance doesn’t actually cover much. As full-time faculty enrolled in UNM’s Presbyterian plan, my spouse and I ended up in spiraling debt following our son’s birth in 2012–he was prone to serious croup, a common childhood illness, and ended up hospitalized twice. This could happen to anyone; and in fact it does happen, way too often, at UNM. I think we can do better by our faculty, at all levels.”

Kathryn Wichelns, Ph.D
Associate Professor
English Department

What is our union’s position on merit pay and cost of living increases?

“Our union’s position on merit pay, salaries, and related matters will be determined by our membership, and through the process of negotiating a contract. Generally, most faculty see significant salary increases, but all of that needs to be determined through the collective bargaining process, with the employer.”

Manel Martinez-Ramon
King Felipe VI Endowed Chair
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering


The following questions were asked by the Faculty Senate President at a recent Faculty Senate meeting:

What is being done on our campus that the union will assume responsibility for? What are the things we will be working on together?

“Neither the Faculty as a whole nor the Faculty Senate has the legal authority to negotiate a legally binding contract with the administration on behalf of the faculty. See, UNM Faculty Constitution, Art. I, Sections 2, 6.

If United Academics wins the union election, then it will legally become the exclusive representative of all faculty holding the titles detailed in the consent election agreement (excluding HSC faculty). As the exclusive representative of those faculty members, the union shall negotiate with the administration on salaries, benefits, and all other terms and conditions of employment. In addition, the agreement shall have a grievance procedure to be used for the settlement of disputes pertaining to employment terms and conditions and related personnel matters. Retirement programs shall not be bargained. All other subjects of bargaining are permissive. See, NMSA 1978, § 10-7E-17 (2003)

Contrary to the administration’s misinformation campaign, having a union negotiate faculty salaries does not foreclose the possibility of individual faculty being awarded merit raises or receiving salary adjustments in response to bona fide written offers from other institutions. See, for example, the collective bargaining agreements at University of Illinois at Chicago (Article VI), University of Oregon (Article 26), and Rutgers (Article 8).

The agreement produced by these good-faith negotiations will become a legal contract. The union will then represent all faculty covered by the agreement to ensure that the administration complies with the contract.”

Ernesto Longa
Law Library
School of Law

What is it that the union would do that is not being done on our campus?

“To be determined. However, United Academics has affiliated with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) for a reason. United Academics shares AAUP’s belief that collective bargaining can be an effective means of achieving AAUP’s primary objectives, most notably, protecting academic freedom and strengthening institutions of faculty governance. According to Mike Mauer, AAUP’s Senior Labor Advisor, following a successful union drive, “The fundamental starting point is determining the division of responsibility between the senate and the union. Only once it is clear which body is responsible for which matters can union negotiators turn to the question of how to bargain helpful provisions into a collective bargaining agreement, and can senate leaders direct governance efforts to deal with such matters.” Michael Mauer, Protecting Shared Governance Through Collective Bargaining: Models Used by AAUP Chapters, 8 J. Collective Bargaining in the Academy art. 7 (2016).

I am hopeful that United Academics and the Faculty Senate will collaborate, compliment, and support one another towards protecting and strengthening faculty voice in the governance of the University.”

Ernesto Longa
Law Library
School of Law