The renewed attention comes as Republicans took control of the House for the first time in decades, giving rise to the possibility that right-to-work legislation would pass in New Mexico, making it the 25th state to pass such legislation.
The legislation would forbid unions from collecting dues from non-union members or require employees to be a member of a union. Unions say this is needed because the union agreements cover all employees. Those critical of unions say it is unnecessary.
Sen. Lee Cotter, R-Las Cruces, is a conservative Republican and he sees the legislation as a push for freedom and personal choice.
“Right-to-work, of course, allows people to have freedom and to have their own choice prevail instead of having government or some other entity that they don’t have control over require them to join, pay for, participate in activities that they don’t want,” Cotter told New Mexico Political Report in a phone interview.
“I think right to work in general as an overview allows people to choose how they work,” he said. “Are they a member of the union, are they not, do they work for a union shop or not?”
Cotter says that he believes it will help the economy and workers throughout the state.
Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, is a retired teacher and teacher’s union representative. She sees the issue of right-to-work and the upcoming focus on it as less about economic development and more about politics.
“This is a political movida,” she said. “It has nothing to do with bringing economic development to the state.”
“Honestly, the excuses that I’ve been hearing that it will help bring new investors into the state and they haven’t come because we have a collective bargaining law is nonsense,” Trujillo said.
She said that Governor Bill Richardson — a Democratic and Susana Martinez’s predecessor — was able to bring in economic development without repealing the state’s right-to-work law.
Right-to-work has been blamed for the loss of a massive battery factory for Tesla by some; others point to a report by KRQE that New Mexico’s bid was less than a quarter of that of Nevada. Tesla ended up choosing Nevada to house the factory.
Nevada is a right-to-work state. Martinez’s office also noted Nevada’s proximity to Tesla’s other facilities in California as part of the decision to build the battery factory. California is not a right-to-work state.
One thing both Trujillo and Cotter agree on is that the legislation faces a good chance of passing the House and will face a tougher time in the Senate.
This wouldn’t be the first time that right-to-work legislation has passed both chambers twice before, once in 1979 and once in 1981. Each time, then-governor Bruce King vetoed the legislation.
The legislation has never been to a governor’s desk since then.
A quote by Sen. Lee Cotter was updated.