Labor campaign kills anti-worker measures in N.M.

SANTA FE, N.M. (PAI) – In a surprise to both state and national anti-worker right wing Republicans, intensive campaigns by workers, unions and their allies killed three hurtful anti-union measures in the New Mexico legislature.

“The session’s ending, but we’re just getting started,” the New Mexico Federation of Labor exclaimed after right-to-work, repeal of prevailing wages for construction workers and a “pre-emption bill’ to make it illegal for cities to set their own labor and wage laws all died.

Right-to-work lost in a state senate committee on a 5-4 vote, with the five Democrats outvoting the four GOPers. The other two bills were killed on the Senate floor. RTW never came up this year in the Republican-run New Mexico House. Had the prevailing wage ban passed, construction unions calculated workers’ wages would fall by 30 percent.

“It is a shame that (Republican) Gov. Martinez and the New Mexico GOP wasted so much time this session with unnecessary attacks on working families and ‘all crime all the time’ bills that do nothing to address the root causes of crime in our communities,” said State Fed President Jon Hendry.

“This session should have been a real opportunity to do good for the working people of New Mexico and pass proactive legislation that creates jobs, raises wages, and improves local economies.

“But, as long as anti-worker politicians control half of our state legislature, we won’t be able to make the progress we need to get our state back on track. That’s why we need you to stay active and engaged through Election Day,” Hendry concluded.

He also asked workers to sign a petition thanking those state lawmakers who stood up for workers’ rights.

“With anti-labor forces whipping through the country, New Mexico has shown itself to be an emerging labor stronghold – with tactics and pro-worker forces to be reckoned with,” Sheet Metal Workers Local 49, which lobbied hard in the state, said.

“With damaging bills such as those designed to strip workers – union and on-union – of their union-negotiated prevailing wages and the so-called right to work bill being pushed by the Republicans, workers’ rights in New Mexico are under serious threat.

“Yet Local 49 members were able to defeat this legislation and keep it from reaching the governor’s desk. The winning effort saw Local 49 work in collaboration with the N.M. Building and Construction Trades Council, the New Mexico Federation of Labor and many other labor organizations.

“Labor’s victory has left the Republican-controlled New Mexico house in shock – and aware of our political influence in the capitol,” it added. Backers of prevailing wage used Local 49’s factual material “to discredit claims by the partisan New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, which is staffed by anti-worker zealots.

“This fight is not over, but with everyone pulling together through the 2016 election to support candidates who support us, we will be more than ready when the attack begins again in the 2017 session.”

Testifying against the right-to-work bill, which would have banned even fair share fees from “free riders” – workers represented by the union who choose not to join or pay dues – Electrical Workers (IBEW) Political Coordinator Brian Condit explained the fees can’t include “non-chargeable” union activities like organizing and politics.

“If I am organizing or engaging other workers, that is considered non-chargeable,” Condit said. “If I am involved in advocating for employees in my bargaining unit, that is considered chargeable.”

Rachel Dworkin from Las Lunas, an IATSE Local 480 member and a Michigan native, said she did not want a rerun of what has happened in her old home state to come to her new home state.

“When I was growing up in Michigan as a teenager in the 90s, I knew many people who had very well paying jobs, working for the auto companies like Ford, for example. They had benefits. They were happy.

“Today one does not see that in Michigan so much anymore. One sees a lot of people with bachelor degrees working for 11 or 12 dollars an hour, living in poverty or near poverty, without health benefits. Today one sees a lot of people moving to other states for better opportunities.

“It makes me feel very sad to see that the same legislation that destroyed my home state might be brought here. We must make a stand here in New Mexico! It is important that we fight for the workers in our state and fight for our right to organize. ‘Right to work’ laws are not good for our country’s future. It is not good for our state’s future,” she said.

“Right to work is really the right to squeeze working families,” the New Mexico Education Association, the state affiliate of the nation’s largest union, said. And its proponents, out-of-state corporate interests, are trying “to put our (educators’) voices on ‘mute,'” the group said.

“Wages in right to work states are $2.49-an-hour lower for minorities and $1.82-an-hour lower for Anglos than they are in states that allow workers to freely bargain for their rights and pay,” the association noted. New Mexico is 47 percent Hispanic-American. “Supporters of Right to Work say passing it here will bring jobs. Not true. All it does is drive down pay and further put the squeeze on an already-struggling middle class.”

Photo: New Mexico Federation of Labor


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C.

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