The New Mexico Highlands University Board of Trustees approved increasing pay for hourly workers from $12 to $15 an hour, according to a news release.
Most work in trades and custodial positions.
The vote came after months of collective bargaining.
Facilities and planning director Sylvia Baca said the pay increase will provide significant relief to the majority of her department’s employees.
“This has historically been a group of people who just over a year ago were making $9 an hour, and a lot of my employees had to work two jobs to make ends meet,” Baca said. “Some are single parents, and even for those who are married, one of the parents often has to stay home to care for the children because childcare is so expensive.”
James Chavez, who works in maintenance, also owns two businesses that until now brought in more money than his custodial work.
“I have three children, and I am separated, so I do have to work a second job,” said Chavez said. “But at the same token, Highlands does have benefits such as my children get to go to school without tuition.”
Chavez said he pays for his mom’s bills, too, so the wage increase will help him stretch his money further.
“It is kind of a big deal, honestly,” he said. “It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. They take care of us here.”
Highlands President Sam Minner said he’s been working on getting this wage increase since his early days on campus.
“I can’t stop smiling about what we’re doing today,” said Minner. “I want to thank both bargaining teams—I know this can be difficult.”
He said he would not stop at $15 an hour and will continue working on compensation issues.