AFSCME Council 18

Court of Appeals finds for AFSCME, CWA in State Wage Dispute

The New Mexico Court of Appeals issued a decision Wednesday, Aug. 8, in favor of AFSCME and CWA on an important issue affecting wages for both state bargaining units. The decision affirms previous arbitration awards in the unions’ favor which require the state to issue back pay checks to employees in an unknown amount, but which is estimated to be in the $5 - $10 million range.

The dispute arose when the state refused to pay wage increases agreed to by the parties. The unions’ previous contracts with the state required a wage increase for fiscal year 2009. Claiming that the Legislature did not appropriate the necessary money to fund those wage increases, the state paid its union employees a smaller wage increase than what was called for in the collective bargaining agreement.

The unions filed grievances and arbitrated the state’s decision. Arbitrators for AFSCME and CWA separately ruled that the Legislature did appropriate sufficient funds to pay the agreed upon wage increases and ordered the state to retroactively increase the wage rates and back pay all union employees working for the state. The state appealed these decisions in state District Court but lost again. The state appealed again, this time arguing its case before the New Mexico Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals issued its decision Aug. 8 affirming the arbitrators’ awards.

The state of New Mexico has the option to seek review by the New Mexico Supreme Court. Council 18 will continue to follow this important case.

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