Across the country, Americans are working longer hours for less money and fewer benefits. New Mexicans are working harder, but are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet. All the while, a handful of CEOs and the very rich have seen their salaries and wealth skyrocket. Regressive tax codes across America help the wealthy increase their treasure while avoiding paying their fair share in taxes. This is not by accident.
The state and labor unions representing workers in agencies possibly facing furloughs are clashing over the process of the potential forced days off. State Personnel Director Justin Najaka sent a letter Monday to Connie Derr, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 18 asking her to meet with him “to discuss the proposed statewide furlough plan.”
AFSCME represents employees at the Motor Vehicle Division, which Gov. Susana Gov. Susana Martinez has said could face the unpaid days off along with museums and state parks. Najaka cites state administrative code stating that the plan “identifying organizational units to be affected by the furlough may be presented to the State Personnel Board for approval or may otherwise be implemented.”
Najaka then listed this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as dates he could meet with Derr. He ended the letter by stating that if he didn’t hear from Derr soon, “the State will proceed with the implementation of the proposed statewide furlough plan.”
But in a letter sent to Najaka today in response, Derr said the meeting would be an empty gesture without adequate information showing a need for furloughs. “Without such data and narrative, we have reason to believe this will be merely a pro forma and substance free meeting,” Derr wrote, citing provisions in the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the state.
The state and federal government have “ramped up their investigations” of the New Mexico’s alleged widespread falsification of food aid applications, according to the union that represents the state’s case processors in the Human Services Department. And the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Council 18 question whether investigators are targeting “frontline workers” more than the administrators at HSD for responsibility in the scandal. An online post from AFSCME also claims that the investigation is criminal and advises all union members to “contact your union representative before participating in any interview.”
“We understand the importance of getting to the bottom of this swamp,” the AFSCME post reads. “It will be unacceptable should frontline workers be scapegoated of held responsible for wrong-doing [sic] that federal court proceedings revealed was directed from top levels of state government.”
Reached by phone, representatives from AFSCME declined to comment on the matter further. A spokesman from HSD also didn’t return requests to comment Tuesday afternoon.
Miles Conway is the Communications Director for AFSCME Council 18. On Tuesday, March 29, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with working people and against the wealthy special interests behind the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case. Friedrichs was an attempt to restrict our rights to join together through our union so that we are able speak up for one another, improve our communities, our careers, and hold the powerful accountable. Had the ruling gone against labor, the ability and right of public employees and employers to sit down, negotiate and agree to a union security clause would’ve been made illegal overnight. Union security clauses, or “fair-share” provisions are legal today, and must be mutually agreed to by the union workers and the bosses.
Following a memorial for those lost in the attacks of September 11, union members gathered for a press conference to address issues regarding first responders and collective bargaining. The union members gathered in a conference room in an Albuquerque hotel on Friday afternoon. At issue was a case set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court. Friedrichs v. California Teachers concerns whether union employees are required to pay “fair share.” These are payments from non-union personnel who would benefit from union bargaining. Public sector union members and their supporters have argued that first responders will suffer without a strong collective bargaining unit.
First responders gathered with New Mexico and Albuquerque leaders in Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza on Friday to remember the lives that were lost 14 years ago on September 11, 2001. Gov. Susana Martinez spoke to the crowd of community members and first responders by thanking them for their service. “Thank you for what you do every single day,” Martinez said. She went on to remember her personal experience of the attacks on September 11, 2001. She said the news of planes crashing into the World Trade Center was devastating.
In response to a complaint filed in March alleging a violation of a state open government law , the City of Albuquerque last month maintained that it can ban members of the public from video-recording its personnel hearings. It’s a stance that the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, the union that represents the city’s 878 police officers, shares. Toni Balzano, a spokeswoman for the union, told New Mexico Political Report that city personnel hearings “should be private unless the city chooses or finds some reason that it should not be.” “We do feel like there’s a lot of information—personnel information—that would not be available to the media or the public through an [Inspection of Public Records] request that is part of these hearings,” she said. The controversy began earlier this year when Charles Arasim, a resident who’s been video-recording and uploading personnel meetings involving police officers online, was told he could not videotape hearings.