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UNM provost warns against faculty union

Jessamyn Lovell finishes hanging banners in the lobby of the Popejoy Theater for a UNM faculty union meeting earlier this year. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico’s provost says he is against a faculty union, but he pledges to support whatever the faculty decide in next month’s vote.

Faculty members at New Mexico’s largest university will vote on the creation of a faculty union on Oct. 16 and 17.

Provost James Paul Holloway in an all campus memo emailed Thursday said that while he doesn’t have a vote in the matter, he doesn’t think a union would be in the best interests of the university.

“This is a system driven by distinction, quality of the ideas and impact of individuals, continuous expectations of creative original work, and peer review as a fundamental means to assess these,” he wrote. “These values are fundamentally inconsistent with the core labor protection ideas of unionism: standardized work and collectively-set pay, seniority, and the privileged role of the union as the arbiter of labor conditions on behalf of each worker.”

Most professors will get to cast a ballot in next month’s union election.

Shane Youtz, an attorney for the faculty union effort, previously said almost all of the roughly 1,700 faculty positions at UNM and its four branch campuses are included in one of the two bargaining units. Not included are visiting professors and retired professors who still hold positions at the university, nor are supervisors, managers, confidential employees, deans, associate deans, provosts and instructors at the UNM Health Sciences Center, he has said.

A forum on faculty unionization held on campus last spring drew more than 100 professors, most who spoke in favor of forming a union.

“This is a classic union-busting technique,” Ernesto Longa, a professor in the School of Law Library in favor of unionization, said of Holloway’s memo. “… We need an administration that respects faculty, from full tenured professors to part-time faculty teaching semester to semester.”

Holloway said in the memo that a union won’t help solve pressing issues that challenge the university.

“It will not grow our enrollment, change the state funding formula, increase the university’s revenue, or create greater collegiality and a sense of shared purpose,” he said in the memo. “As I said publicly when I interviewed last February, I fully understand our faculty’s frustration after 10 years of shrinking budgets and no raises. But additional processes and steps, and new bureaucracies to navigate founded on inconsistent principles and conflicting goals, will not improve our financial outlook or continue to build the university to the scholarly heights it must achieve.”

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