November 30, 2004
Employees Say NMSU Is Hampering Union Organizers
The Associated Press
LAS CRUCES New Mexico State University employees filed a complaint Tuesday with the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board alleging school administrators and supervisors are trying to thwart efforts to unionize.
The allegations include interfering with, restricting and restraining the right of employees to discuss unionization; discriminatory enforcement of NMSU policies in a way that interferes with the right of public employees to bargain; questioning employees about union activity and discouraging union support; and intimidating students who support employees seeking to unionize.
The allegations were filed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that NMSU workers are seeking to bring in.
"NMSU employees are trying to work cooperatively with the NMSU administration but find resistance at every turn," said Duncan Hayse, a member of the union organizing committee who works for NMSU's university communications.
NMSU general counsel Bruce Kite said the university disagrees with the allegations and believes it has done nothing wrong.
"When it goes to a hearing as they are requesting, we will be vindicated," Kite said.
The allegations are broad and vague, making it hard for NMSU to respond, he said.
"It's clearly insufficient to give us any idea of what they are actually complaining about," he said.
NMSU has 15 days to file a response to the complaint, after which the labor board could schedule a hearing.
Backers of a union contended in a news release that there have been 25 separate incidents of illegal activity by supervisors in 15 departments, that the administration has tried to block free speech about unionization on campus and that the university hired a consultant the backers contend has been used by other employers to slow or stop union organization efforts.
Several NMSU employees earlier this month wrote President Michael Martin, complaining that informational meetings they tried to hold for other employees were "disrupted" by supervisors who said meeting rooms hadn't been properly reserved or rented. They said other meetings were stymied on the grounds that union activities were "solicitation" subject to NMSU policies.
The letter to Martin said union supporters were not "an outside agency that has come to campus to šsell' a product. Instead, we are merely university employees who are gathering on our lunch hours and during break times to discuss issues relevant to unionization."
Kite said NMSU has policies governing how third-party groups can rent space, and the unionization effort received those policies.
"All we've basically stated is there are procedures to follow, follow the procedures and you'll have a room," he said.
A response to the NMSU employees' letter was distributed to the university community stating that NMSU is neutral to a union, that "we neither encourage nor discourage our employees," Kite said
"We feel if employees are given complete information, we trust their judgment as to whether a union is needed here on campus. . . . They make their own educated decision. We'll abide by that decision," he said.