AFSCME Council 18

Cats Got Their Tongue: AFSCME Continues Quest for Answers on State Back Pay 12/18

 State Pay Plan Questions --- Partial Answers

Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) members only had to threaten to call security once last night as a huge AFSCME crowd remained mostly quiet, listening respectfully in the face of growing impatience over low pay and the five year old back pay issue.

The Legislative Finance Committee meeting in Santa Fe on December 12 did not result in concrete answers to AFSCME (and CWA) state employees' question: "When will we see our back pay?!" This was through no fault of the legislators. Rather, the State Personnel Office was unable to give specific answers. State Personnel Director Gene Moser testified the back pay liability is between $25-28 million. A task force detailed by the State to work on the calculations will present its report on a phased pay back strategy to AFSCME (and CWA) leaders on Wednesday, December 18. Check our website at www.afscme18.org for updates.

All in all, and despite Mr. Moser’s ambiguous tone, AFSCME is encouraged that our members WILL at least have a timeframe for back pay by year’s end.

Thanks go to the constant pressure from AFSCME, our allies in the legislature, who keep this issue on the front burner during legislative hearings, and a HUGE crowd of AFSCME members filling the committee chamber yesterday!

AFSCME benefits from our allies on the LFC who were in no mood to hear Moser's attempts at side-stepping questions. Sen. Carlos Cisneros and Rep. Lucky Varela repeatedly asked pointed questions about SPO's plans to resolve the lawsuit and improve the state's compensation structure.

Setting the Stage for a Brighter Day:

Going into last night’s Legislative Finance Committee meeting, AFSCME knew a few things:

The State of New Mexico owed us tens of millions of dollars in back pay from the underfunded 2008 pay increase.

Unspent State money on the sidelines includes $50 million in reversions from last year’s budget, $30 million in vetoed spending, $237 million in new capital, $600 million in unspent capital, and a healthy $1 billion in bonding.

Individual agencies have sufficient reserves to cover the back pay without asking taxpayers to foot the bill.

All-in, the State continues to be in an excellent position to pay us our back-pay and budget for fair raises. State Personnel Director Moser repeatedly testifies to the LFC that raises are sorely needed for retention and recruitment in state government. However, Mr. Moser, who as the state's negotiator on our collective bargaining agreement is in a position to put his words in deeds, proposed ZERO pay increases for the next three years. Credibility is an issue.

SPO Compensation Director Justin Najaka said that on average, New Mexico is 18% behind market rates for compensation. Repeatedly, SPO confirmed that state agencies spend vast resources training new employees only to see them depart months later for greener pastures with other public or private sector employers.

As articulated by Mr. Moser, the Governor’s vision for improving the overall compensation for state employees left everything to be desired. Early in his presentation, Mr. Moser rolled out the administration’s musty-dusty nuclear option, floating their favorite idea to diminish pension and other benefits, freeing up money for merit based raises. This is a terrible strategy, a thinly veiled play to get Wall Street’s hands on our pension fund, and something which AFSCME will never stop fighting against.

Beyond that, Moser offered ZERO specific solutions and rehashed his three year old lament that the problems with New Mexico’s lagging compensation structure were inherited from previous administrations.

Bizarrely, when Rep. Lucky Varela asked if the staff at SPO had brought forth ideas for system fixes, Moser said yes they had, but those ideas never saw the light of day, seemingly having been shot down by Moser or the Governor herself.

Fiscally conservative Democratic Senator John Arthur Smith (Deming) gave AFSCME a peek into the crystal ball when he stated that current surpluses should allow for a raise for public employees this coming fiscal year.

Let's keep building power and keep the pressure on to protect your rights!!: sign up more members! Become a PEOPLE (political) activist! Pledge ACTION! Call or EMAIL the AFSCME Union Hall at (505) 266-2505 and let us know you’re ALL-IN to write letters, make phone calls, send emails, visit your legislators, and SHARE INFO with your co-workers.

United We Stand! United We Win!

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