AFSCME Council 18

UPDATED 2/6/15: AFSCME Local 3999 Meets the Challenge

Facing Massive Budget Cuts, AFSCME Report Shines a Light on Path Forward to Avoid Drastic Layoffs

“There is no way in hell we’re going to allow this budget to be balanced on the backs of City workers.” With those words, Mayor Javier Gonzales placed himself on firm footing with around 60 AFSCME City of Santa Fe Local 3999 members, who came to hear the Mayor address a projected $15 million dollar city budget deficit.

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Local 3999 members, who are responsible for the lion’s share of taxpayer funded city services - including water, streets, transit, solid waste, parks, administration, and even special events, are organizing to include themselves in the imminent budget battle. Gonzales opened his remarks at a Tuesday, January 12 meeting at the Center for Progress and Justice by thanking the AFSCME city workers who spent long hours in the cold preparing the Plaza for a New Years’ extravaganza and light show. The celebration proved a successful, and is likely to become one of the City Different’s new traditional public events.

AFSCME Local 3999 members listening to Mayor Gonzales at January 12 meeting held at the Center for Progress and Justice

“Your purpose serving the community is far more valuable than the wages you’re earning,” said Gonzales. “If you’re spending your lifetime with city government, your wages ought to keep up with the cost of living.”

Given the entire scope of the budget deficit being faced by Santa Fe, those cost of living increases feel decidedly out of reach. Building a strong local, hanging onto current wages and benefits levels, and fighting to maintain essential bargaining unit positions will make up the foundation of AFSCME 3999’s mobilization strategy in 2016.As details of the major budget deficit emerged last month, media stories quickly latched onto the narrative coming out of city hall that Santa Fe has 500 more full time employees than cities of comparable size. The cities chosen for comparison were not seats of government, nor did they provide the varied spectrum of services which New Mexico’s capital city provides.

Santa Fe has around 1500 full time employees. 716 of those jobs are filled by frontline city service employees whose rights are protected by the AFSCME collective bargaining agreement. Currently, the union is tracking an additional 103 vacant and funded union positions.

A recent Santa Fe New Mexican story by Daniel Chacon, City committee considers shrinking workforce to close budget gap, quotes a councilor saying Santa Fe should expect a smaller workforce a few years from now. AFSCME members will be pressed to influence decision makers on where those workforce cuts come from in the coming months, especially considering that the city has grown larger in recent years and employees are already doing more with less.

The appetite is light for among City councilors for adopting new revenue measures. A recent proposal by Councilman Joseph Maestas proposed a two-cent per gallon city gas tax to fund major roads projects. It would be added to the state’s 17 cent a gallon tax, which is seventh lowest in the nation and hasn’t been raised in 21 years. That proposal, which would’ve raised an estimated $950,000 a year, failed on a 6-3 vote.

Without new revenue sources, the Mayor and City Councilors will also focus on identifying areas where revenue is being lost or not collected on rules already in place. According to Mayor Gonzales, the city may be losing as much as $2 million a year on uncollected short-term rental fees. The city also has the ability to collecting overdue charges on parking and water fees.

Mayor Gonzales told 3999 members that everything would be on the table, and there should be no sacred cows, making it very clear to AFSCME that currently funded positions, both filled and unfilled, will be up for negotiation.

Mayor Gonzales told AFSCME members that city leaders, “need AFSCME’s input on where waste is occurring and cost savings can be found. We’re counting on you guys to attend committee and council meetings once we put together a solutions proposal.”

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