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Faculty union debate at UNM heats up

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Sign stealing and snatching domain names have become part of the unionization fray at the University of New Mexico.

The UNM faculty is scheduled to vote Wednesday and Thursday on whether it will be represented by a union. As the race heated up last week, the provost sent a message to faculty members asking professors to cool down.

“Yesterday, in separate incidents, two of our colleagues elected to place posters expressing their views on the faculty unionization vote on some of our many public posting walls, places in which we are all free to share ideas. Others in our community quickly removed these posters, denying to their authors the audience to which they hoped to speak,” Provost James Holloway said in a letter to all faculty. “This action does not reflect our values of open debate, but rather it seeks only to prevent the speech of others. Those in our community who elect to express their ideas on faculty unionization, either in favor or in opposition, have a right for their ideas to be seen and heard.”

Holloway didn’t say which side is allegedly behind the sign stealing.

There is also some digital gamesmanship going on in the election. There is an anti-union website at unmexcellence.org. But similar domain names have been gobbled up by the opposition, so type in unmexcellence.com or unmexcellence.net and the user is directed to uaunm.org, the pro-union website.

At a forum last spring on faculty unionization, a clear majority of the dozens of faculty members who spoke were in favor of forming a teachers union. A pro-union website offers testimony from about 70 faculty members who are supporting the union.

The anti-union website includes a letter signed by 27 professors who mostly work in engineering and biology.

Gregory Taylor, a distinguished professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, said there appears to be a divide among faculty members based on their fields of study. He said professors in humanities appear to be leaning more in favor of the union and those who are against the union are more clustered in science and engineering fields.

Taylor put up some posters around campus urging his colleagues to “vote no” on a union. He won’t be allowed to cast a ballot because he’s also the director of the Center for Astrophysical Research and Technologies. He said he’s concerned about how a union could affect research and other matters.

“People have been civil to me, mostly. Nobody yelled at me when I was putting up (anti-union) posters. I was a little nervous in the College of Education,” Taylor said. “It’s really surprising to me that my colleagues would be tearing down posters.”

Jessamyn Lovell, a senior lecturer in the College of Fine Arts, has been part of union organizing efforts at UNM. She said the vast majority of faculty members are in favor of the union. “It’s a bummer there’s a vocal few in opposition,” she said.

She said she and other organizers are spending the remaining days urging their co-workers to vote.

“We are going out and pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, going to offices, making phone calls and reminding people to vote,” she said. “The mood is pretty good. We’re excited to make it official, if that’s what happens, on Friday.”

The union would be called the United Academics of the University of New Mexico, according to a website created by organizers.

Roughly 1,700 faculty positions at UNM and its four branch campuses would be included in one of two bargaining units, one for continuing faculty positions and another for adjunct employees, according to union organizers.

Not included in either of the potential bargaining units are visiting professors and retired professors who still hold positions at the university, nor are supervisors, managers, confidential employees, deans, associate deans, provosts. No health sciences faculty are included in either union.

 


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