New Mexico’s labor movement is alive and well

Our coverage of work and workers

By: - September 5, 2022 5:00 am

Communications Workers of America Local 7076 represents custodial workers at Central New Mexico Community College and the University of New Mexico, and the union has organized to end poverty wages at both schools. CWA members were present at a rally in December 2021 organized by a coalition of unions. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

The labor movement doesn’t typically get sustained media attention, but it is alive and well in New Mexico.

In recognition of Labor Day and as part of our reflections on our first year, we’ve collected our coverage of work and workers since we started.

One prominent example of the push for rights and wages here is the graduate student worker union at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, from their initial efforts to be recognized as a union, to their ongoing fight for a first contract. As they point out, livable wages and access to health care in exchange for instructing much of the university’s courses means more people would be able to pursue a graduate degree.

Fellow workers in the janitorial and maintenance departments at the University’s five campuses across the state and at Central New Mexico Community College have also put school administrators in the hot seat.

So have graduate workers at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, through their campaign to cover their tuition costs like NMSU’s peer institutions.

Film workers in New Mexico have also gotten a lot of attention for their threat to join a nationwide strike over conditions threatening their health and safety after the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the film set of “Rust” near Santa Fe.

Following in the footsteps of hundreds of Starbucks stores across the country in the last year, baristas in Albuquerque and Santa Fe are trying to unionize and are facing union-busting tactics.

Lesser-known labor activity includes workers organizing inside prisons and one of the last remaining indie bookstores in Albuquerque.

Health care has been in crisis since before the COVID pandemic, but the pressure hasn’t stopped hospital workers in Rio Rancho and Gallup from taking action to make things better.

Our coverage of work has not been limited to union activity. We’ve also looked at how state law affects working conditions, including paid sick leave, pay for teachers and Indigenous language instructors, discrimination against Indigenous teachers and students, a lack of a vaccine requirement for first responders, and Patrick Lohmann’s extensive, bilingual coverage of the state’s chile industry.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.