March 10, 2015

Two right-to-work bills tabled in Senate committee

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A Senate committee blocked the passage of two right-to-work bills on Tuesday evening.

Roundhouse Rotunda

The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted to table two different bills aimed at barring employers from requiring union payments as a term of employment and from unions and employers agreeing to ‘fair share’ agreements from non-union workers who benefit from union negotiations.

The committee heard HB 75 from Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, and SB 183 from Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington. Roch’s bill went through a series of highly-attended committee meetings in the House and a House floor vote. This was the first committee for Sharer’s bill.

Committee members already heard public comment in a hearing on Saturday, so Tuesday’s meeting was solely devoted to debate from the members.

Roch told the panel that his bill was not intended to solve the state’s economic problems, but instead to give workers the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union. He also noted that his bill has a minimum wage increase tied to it. He deemed the relation between the two topics as a “win-win situation.”

Sharer echoed Roch’s sentiment and told the committee that his intention was to merely give workers a choice. He added that he has seen businesses provide high level training to employees without union influences.

An example he gave was The School of Energy at San Juan College in northwest New Mexico. According to its website, the school offers classes related to the oil and gas industry and occupational safety.

“That was created by business, not unions,” Sharer said.

Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, told the two sponsors and the panel that when he was the mayor of Alamogordo, during budget cuts, he witnessed unions force out some employees in order to mitigate the financial burden on other employees. He added that he pushed for unpaid leave for employees, but the union decided on job cuts instead.

He said that it was not the workers that decided on job cuts, but instead, “It was because of the representatives that represented the union for the city.

The other two Republican members of the committee raised concerns about being forced to pay into unions and where fair share payments go.

Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said his wife was forced to join a union in another state in order to work as a cashier at a grocery store and her dues were used to support political causes she did not agree with. He said he does not think people should be forced to pay into something they do not agree with.

“I think that is inherently unfair,” Brandt said.

Democratic members argued that the legislation was a thinly veiled attempt to lower wages and is not a good fit for the New Mexico.

Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, told the sponsors that she sees unions as an important part of stimulating the economy.

“Unions create jobs, unions create wages and unions create working conditions,” Stewart said.

After debate, Brandt made a ‘do not pass’ motion, a last-ditch effort to move the legislation on to the next committee. After two failed attempts by Brandt, the committee voted to table both bills on two different party-line votes.

In a written statement from the House Republican press office, Roch said he was disappointed by the vote and that “It’s a sad day for New Mexico’s workers.”

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