NMSU faculty members attempt to form “NMSUnion”

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Mitchell Allred

NMSU campus on August 24, 2020

Some faculty members at New Mexico State University are attempting to form a union called the NMSUnion after NMSU announced in early August that departments around the university are required to make budget cuts to contribute to an overall university budget cut of 10.5% by Sept. 15.

NMSU President John Floros asked departments to turn in plans for 6%, 9% and 12% budget cuts during a virtual town hall on Aug. 11 and followed the request with a comment about retaining some faculty.

“We will keep the best people, and the rest of the people that don’t get on the bus, they need to find another place,” Floros said.

After NMSU professor Jamie Bronstein heard Floros’s statement, she said she found it “cold-blooded” and disrespectful.

“I don’t get the sense that he thinks about the consequences of his words or even that he has any respect for faculty at all,” Bronstein said.

In response, Bronstein said she and about 30 NMSU faculty and staff members are planning the NMSUnion.

“This is at least the third effort to organize NMSU faculty and it is needed more now than ever,” Bronstein said.  

Bronstein said that the University of New Mexico creating their own faculty union is an example that one can be formed at NMSU.

“There was some question about whether any organizing effort could succeed in NM—the successful unionization of UNM last year made that a moot point,” Bronstein said.

NMSU professor Inigo Garcia Bryce is a supporter of the union. He said the union effort is to “give faculty a voice and negotiating power in terms of decision making.”

Bryce used the term salary compression to explain how faculty salaries are at a low standard compared to other similar universities.

“You are hired as a professor at market rates, or close to market rates. Once you are here, your salary compresses and doesn’t increase anywhere near market rates,” Bryce said.

Bryce said the university has had years where faculty salaries do not increase and that these zero increases felt “egregious” in comparison to the salaries of President Floros, Chancellor Dan Arvizu and other university administration members.

According to the Las Cruces Sun News, Floros earns $450,000 per year and Arvizu earns $500,000 per year compared to the $373,450 annual salary of former NMSU Chancellor and President Garrey Carruthers who retired in 2018.

“Do students realize that NMSU went from paying $350K to president/chancellor Carruthers to paying 950K plus $260K in possible bonuses to Floros and Arvizu whose job descriptions are unclear?” Bronstein said. “Are students aware that for some reason now we have a whole slew of vice presidents, a vice-chancellor, and various people to whom the provost has delegated many parts of her job? That’s tax money, and it’s not being well spent.”

On Aug. 20, faculty and staff members held a meeting with members from the National Education Association which Kenneth Hammond, an NMSU professor, said was helpful for faculty interested in unionizing.

“I was at the meeting yesterday, which was basically for some of us interested in exploring ways of moving this idea forward to share some information, about past experiences and some present options,” Hammond said.

Hammond said that everything discussed in the meeting was “all very preliminary and in the formative stages,”

Hammond compared the current state of how NMSU is being led as similar to a “business” and said that he and other faculty members found it frustrating.

“Faculty are the prime producers of value within the university, not just a gang of minions to be squeezed for higher productivity according to some obscure metrics evolved without our input,” Hammond said.

 

 

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