On Monday, New Mexico’s Republican governor issued what union leaders are calling a “declaration of war” against unionized state employees.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, Gov. Susana Martinez told a group of commercial real estate developers that she wants to stop allowing union dues to be automatically drawn from the paychecks of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME) and the Communication Workers of America union (CWA).
“The state collects [dues] for the unions, and then we cut a check to the unions who then use that money against reform,” she said. “That was in the negotiated union contracts years ago [but] we’re at an impasse with the current [labor re-negotiations] because I don’t want to take the checks out of the payroll and do their job so they can attack us.”
State law requires all employees pay union dues if they are represented by a union. In the case of AFSCME and CWA, $13 is withdrawn automatically in what is called a “fair share” contribution. Nivia Thames, the Deputy Director of the State Personnel Office, said in a statement that “The state is opposed to this practice and has not included ‘fair share’ in its last, best offers to AFSCME and CWA.”
“We made this decision,” she continued, “because of the unfair effect ‘fair share’ has on non-union employees [who] have complained that they do not want to pay money to the unions when they are not members and they are not receiving any benefit.”
Despite not being members of these unions, the employees who “have complained” are represented by union negotiators during contract disputes. AFSCME spokesman Miles Conway told the Albuquerque Journal that the union knew Martinez was “coming to cut the unions off at the knees, but we didn’t know she was going for the head.”
If the new contract doesn’t contain a “fair share” dues payment, Conway said union employees would be forced “to go out and knock on 11,000 doors every two weeks to collect dues, that would be a supreme departure from the norm.”
He also disputed Martinez’s claim that dues were being used to fund political attacks, saying that “fair share” dues are prohibited from political use, and only go to finance the union’s daily operations.
Gov. Martinez has attacked teachers unions in the past for opposing her educational initiatives, but unlike those unions — whose dues are collected at the local level — AFSCME and CWA must negotiate directly with Martinez’s administration.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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