Why Is there a Union?

The State of New Mexico, through the legislative process, found that having equally matched representatives for labor (employees) and owners (employers) creates stability in state-funded institutions. This wisdom has been formulated many times, one of the the latest in the New Mexico Public Employee Bargaining Act of 2003.

The publically elected Governing Board of Central New Mexico Community College (CNM, previously known as Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute, TVI) complied with the State’s mandate when confirming CNM Employees Union (CNMEU) as exclusive representative of CNM employees in several “bargaining units”* (*employees with common interests). This was codified in 2007 by a Governing_Board_Resolution that defines the powers and authorities of CNM (as employer) and CNMEU (representing CNM employees).

Having unions represent employees makes “business sense”! If this were not true, the State of New Mexico would not have encouraged the growth of unions in New Mexico.

Must I join CNMEU? Should I join?

You are not required to join our Union, but you really should. CNM Community College is not a “closed shop” where employees must be union members to work. However, our Union must, according to state law, provide “fair representation” to all individuals who work in our organized bargaining units — when we bargain, we bargain for all employees of our three units, members or not. Increasing union membership means more strength and authority for us in bargaining situations. Our sliding dues scale is low for members with low incomes, but even the highert dues for Full Time faculty are well below the national norm. When you join and support the our Union, you become part of a group gathering together in a common cause to improve the lives of CNM employees, their dependents, and aspiring students of New Mexico. Our CNM students deserve the quality of instruction that comes when we educators feel secure, protected, appreciated, and adequately rewarded. None of these things happen unless the Union is strong.

If public-sector unions in New Mexico can’t strike, how can they really exert any power or authority?

It is true that CNMEU cannot organize or support a strike or any other kind of work stoppage such as a walkout. There are, however, many other ways of gaining attention and making sure our demands and desires are heard and considered. These range from the right to file grievances and take contract violations to arbitration, to crafting good and sensible solutions to problems to bring to the attention of the administration, the governing board, or even the NM Legislature. CNMEU has won many battles and significantly advanced the rights and benefits of our people over the years, even if (as people say) “you can’t win them all” and “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

When do I need, and how do I get, Union help for workplace problems?

Whenever you see or experience something that seems like a threat to your job security, health and safety, or assumed rights of yourself and others in the bargaining units, you should bring this to the attention of a union representative or officer listed on the “Contacts” page. You might first bring it to the attention of your supervisor, but the union is here to intercede if something is a contract, safety, or legal matter. You have a right to have a union representative present in any meeting where a disciplinary matter is being discussed, and you can request that a union representative be permitted to sit as a witness in any meeting.

When can the Union file a grievance?

A grievance is a formal action filed by the CNMEU against CNM on behalf of an employee or a group of employees for a specific violation of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Since many grievances address personnel (and personal) matters, Union members (and CNM employees as a whole) do not often hear of them. CNMEU typically files a grievance when administrative policies or procedures conflict with the applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement. If the Union cannot settle the grievance with the College, we can take the issue to arbitration. The arbitrator’s decision is binding on both the Union and the College. By law the CNMEU must represent all unit employees who request assistance with the grievance process. For CNMEU members, the union covers the legal costs of arbitration.

Can CNM get rid of the Union? What right does the Union have to continue to represent employees?

While various CBAs secure employee rights, there is also an established set of rules that govern the relationship between the Union and the College. This agreement is contained in Governing Board Resolution 2007-69 and describes the rights and responsibilities of each party under New Mexico law. If CNM were to actively interfere with the Union or retaliate against individual employees for joining the Union, the College would be in violation of this policy. The Union could file a Prohibited Practice Complaint (PPC) against the college with the CNM Labor-Management Relations Board. In the past the Union has brought charges of Bad Faith Bargaining and Interference to the Labor Board. Because the rights to collectively organize and bargain are secured by state law in New Mexico, the College could further be taken to District Court if it refused to correct practices or actions that were found to be unjust.

What is the “Evergreen clause” ?
Why do we work, sometimes, “without a contract”?

The Albuquerque Journal and other media usually get this wrong. They often say that there is an “evergreen” clause in our contracts. This is NOT true.

New Mexico law states that ALL negotiated contracts between employers and employees continue in force “forever” until replaced by newer negotiated contracts. (This has been called an “evergreen” law for those trees that “keep going,” green, even through the cold winter months.) The idea is to “keep things going” even when employers and employees “freeze” in their opposing positions with no resolutions in sight.

ALL New Mexico employment contracts remain in force until replaced by newer contracts. When CNM and the Union cannot agree on new contracts — “declaring impasse” or “going to fact finding'” or “going to arbitration” — previous contracts CONTINUE until issues get resolved. It’s the law of New Mexico.

Is CNMEU a partisan political organization?

CNMEU is a “fraternal organization” (Union) organized for the benefit of its members. If our union took part in partisan politics, officially promoting one candidate or party over another, we would lose our Federal 501(c)4 [nonprofit, union] status. As a UNION of individuals working for mutual good — related to employment at CNM –, we maintain respect for ALL our members who have differing values, beliefs, and opinions. We work politically through our membership to improve Higher Education in New Mexico.

Some members wish to be vocally political and partisan in support (or criticism) of policies, parties, and politicians. Thus there is an independent committee (Committee for Political Education, COPE) whose funds are raised by donations made by members acting as individuals. COPE funds are entirely separate from CNMEU, and neither CNMEU nor COPE has any control over the other’s actions. The COPE’s funds are used as its contributors decide. The Chair of COPE regularly attends CNMEU Executive Committee meetings to report the COPE’s concerns to other members of the Union. About half of CNMEU’s members participate in the COPE