Workers kill ‘right-to-work’ bill in New Mexico
Union member Bob Eichhorst thanks New Mexico legislators for defeating right-to-work bill. | Luke E. Montavon/AP

SANTA FE, New Mexico — The Republican Governor of this state, Susana Martinez, promised to sign HB 432, an anti-union “right to work” (RTW) bill, if it reached her desk.

It never did, thanks to dozens of union members who packed the room where the House Labor and Economic Development Committee was meeting February 25 for a hearing on the measure.

So many workers showed up, in fact, that the hearing had to be moved to the House chamber itself.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that “dozens of union members from around the state testified against the legislation … with some accusing backers of ‘union-busting.’

“‘All this bill is trying to do is tear down what the unions have built up,’ said Ronald Moore of Melrose, who identified himself as a Republican.”

The Committee killed the bill six to five.

That effectively ends RTW in New Mexico for this year, since the legislature meets for only 60 days.

It also makes the New Mexico House committee the second consecutive state legislative body to trash RTW, despite huge business and right-wing lobbying for it. New Hampshire’s House buried RTW for the year the week before.

Prior to the New Mexico and New Hampshire RTW defeats, heavily GOP legislatures in Kentucky and Missouri passed RTW laws and Republican governors signed them.

In Missouri, unions and worker advocates have mounted a campaign for a voter referendum to overturn the governor’s action.

“Take a moment to remember why so-called ‘right to work’ is a total scam that makes the rich richer while exploiting and endangering working Americans,” New Mexico AFL-CIO President Jon Hendry said on the state labor federation’s website in an appeal to workers to converge on the state capitol for the hearing.

Right-to-work laws, a favorite of business and right wingers for more than 60 years, have just one objective: To rob unions of money, and thus make it difficult for them to defend – or organize – workers.

The RTW laws do so by outlawing any language in collective bargaining agreements mandating the union can collect dues, or even fair share fees from workers who are in the union shop, but don’t want to join. Those levies, also called “agency fees,” let such workers pay discounted rates, covering only bargaining and contract administration.

The New Mexico RTW bill not only barred collection of agency fees but it “would also bar employers from exercising their right to hire only union-trained and certified workers,” Hendry said. “So-called ‘right to work’ laws are unfair, unnecessary and hurt the middle class.”

HB 432 is a ‘right to work’ measure that would cripple the ability of labor organizations to negotiate on behalf of New Mexico’s workers,” Hendry stated.

According to the Journal, at the hearing, “Several Democratic lawmakers said the bill would exacerbate New Mexico income inequality issues, and questioned whether its passage would lead to any companies relocating in the state.”

“Our workers are better off in New Mexico with better wages,” said House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of the People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C.   Gruenberg has been editor-in-chief of PAI since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jarvis bureau chief for the Middletown NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for the Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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