Home New mexico united State certifies New Mexico State University graduate student union

State certifies New Mexico State University graduate student union


LAS CRUCES — Workers graduating from New Mexico State University have obtained union certification through the state labor board.

A call from NMSU is unlikely, which means graduate student union leaders will soon schedule meetings with university administration to formally discuss the concerns. Your priorities? Tuition discounts, more health care options, and higher pay for the more than 900 graduate students who also work at the university.

Matt Varakian, a fourth-year astronomy graduate student involved in the union effort, urges administrators to take “quick action” to make a difference for graduate students. He hopes there can be changes before the start of the next school year in August 2022. He describes the changes demanded by the union as “long overdue”.

The average NMSU graduate student worker earns $12,123 a year after paying tuition and fees, according to a union press release.

“Our number one (priority) is to get tuition coveragehopefully fall 2022,” Varakian said. “We’ve been pushing that specifically in the last two months.”

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Other goals of the union include discussing the structure of graduate schools, ensuring proof of employment transparency, and establishing proper procedures for students who may encounter poor working conditions.

Matt Varakian, a fourth-year astronomy graduate student involved in the union effort, addressed the group of graduate students who came carrying signs to the New State University Board of Regents meeting. -Mexico on Monday, March 14, 2022. He asked them to continue advocating for their union efforts and the remission of tuition fees.

Varakian added: “It’s important to note that these issues have been talked about ever since – I’ve been here for about four years, they’ve been talked about all that time.”

The union certification comes about a year after graduate workers initially union cards submittedrepresenting the majority of graduate student workers, in May 2021.

NMSU will not appeal

The NMSU could appeal the state labor board’s decision to grant a union, but on Thursday NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu pledged to support the union.

“I had a very positive and productive meeting with several of our graduate assistants yesterday morning,” Arvizu wrote in a note posted to Twitter. “The State Public Employees Labor Relations Board voted to certify their union earlier this week and I have informed them that NMSU will not be appealing this decision. I look forward to continuing this dialogue with our graduate assistants as we work to address the concerns they have raised.

Varakian was cautiously optimistic about the certification and confirmation that NMSU will not appeal the certification.

He described the process of union negotiations as “complex”.

“It will take work to figure out how NMSU can provide these things that we are asking for,” he said.

Challenges for international students

In previous presentations and discussions, union leaders of graduate workers at NMSU explained that international graduate students are a particularly vulnerable group.

International students often have to rely more on health care and university resources than graduate students from the United States.

Maxwell Abbey, a Ghanaian student working on his masters in public health, said living with the financial resources provided by the university was “a struggle”.

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Abbey said he earned around $1,800 a month during the eight-month school year. Her monthly tuition comes down to about $1,000, leaving her $800 to cover room and board for the month.

“You’re always thinking about where your next meal is coming from,” he said.

Abbey said tuition discounts and affordable healthcare are the two key elements to keeping herself and other international graduates afloat. He said both would be a “relief”.

Another international graduate student, who asked to remain anonymous, said he would not recommend NMSU to other international students at this time and would instead recommend a school that offers a tuition discount.

“If they make it difficult, we can’t speak for the school,” the student assistant said. But, the student said, he would recommend NMSU if the administration made the changes requested by the union.

Both international students said they were excited to be part of a union that could bargain with NMSU.

“We never sat down to imagine a day like this, where people are going to come together and use their voice, build that collective voice to bring about that change,” Abbey said. “To see this happen now is like a dream come true. I don’t have the right words to express it, but it gives me so much joy to know that we have come together and are fighting.”

Report for America staff member Miranda Cyr can be reached at [email protected] or @mirandacyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at https://bit.ly/LCSNRFA.