AFSCME Council 18

Valencia County Public Safety Vote on First Union Contract

      “Valencia County Manager Bruce Swingle is a tactical man, but he is fair and bargained with us in good faith.” Andres Nevarez, Valencia County Detention Center Officer and negotiator with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2745, share these words following ratification of their first union contract.

     County Manager Swingle agreed, “the County and the union negotiated a good contract that will be equitable for everybody.” Swingle expressed disappointment that things had deteriorated over the years to the point that employees felt they needed a union, but that, “we’re going to make the best of it and look to a good relationship where management and the union can work together to improve [County] Detention facilities for not only the County, but the entire State of New Mexico.”

     Union members voted unanimously to ratify the contract representing 40 facility employees on August 30th. The 2-year agreement boasts a one dollar an hour increase, uniform allowances, and fair shift bidding. “Many of our [Detention] Officers have families” said Nevarez, “the shift bidding will allow us to plan ahead for our days off. Before the union contract, it was impossible to know what to expect and make plans for family time.”

     The Valencia County Detention Center mission statement describes a commitment to safe and humane treatment of the residents, but also emphasizes efficiency and fiscal responsibility to taxpayers. According to Nevarez, those two commitments haven’t always existed harmoniously. “If you want good people who can be counted on, you’ve got to be prepared to pay and treat them fairly, this contract is a big step in that direction.”

     Swingle does not believe that the contract will have a negative or positive affect on the County’s budget, but adds that he is, “looking forward to opportunities for the Union and the County to lobby together at the legislature on issues effecting detention facilities.” Public detention facilities are dramatically affected by N.M. legislative financial decisions. “What is good for management is good for the employees, especially legislatively.”

     Valencia County Detention Officers join more than 15,000 New Mexico Public Employees represented by American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 18, AFL-CIO.

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