AFSCME Council 18

Security Guards To Be Back on the Job at HSD

 Court Prevents Martinez Administration from Sacrificing Public Safety for Minimal Budget Savings


The State of New Mexico First Judicial Court has ruled for the Union and against the Martinez Administration’s decision to remove security guards from six Human Services Department (HSD) field offices. (Read the Order Here) The Court found substantial evidence supporting a previous order of the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Board (PELRB) that security guards must be reinstated.

In 1996 an HSD income support specialist was attacked and stabbed repeatedly by a client who believed she was to blame for reducing his food stamp allotment. In response to the attack, security guards were put in place and had remained on the job at all field offices until the May 2011 move by the Martinez administration to eliminate the security at an approximate $157K annual savings.

“HSD Income Support Offices are designed by the state to look after New Mexico’s underprivileged citizens through food assistance, medicaid, and other programs supporting families. This is our primary purpose and we take pride in the work,” said Joel Villareal, AFSCME Staff Representative. “However, issues around these basic life sustaining benefits can be highly emotional and HSD staff are exposed to a high risk work environment, as we witnessed in Las Cruces in 96.”

AFSCME had immediately sought to negotiate over the department’s move to eliminate security in May of 2011, but the state abruptly cancelled those meetings claiming the union contract did not apply. The PELRB determined, however, that HSD had committed a prohibited practice under the law when they unilaterally and without bargaining removed the security guards.

The State has the option to appeal the District Court’s decision to the NM Court of Appeals within 30 days, but in the interest of public safety, and to maintain an essential term and condition of employment, AFSCME calls upon Govenor Martinez to do the right thing by immediately reinstating security detail at HSD field offices.

Employees working in the Las Cruces Income Support Division Office will testify, this is one issue where a repeat of history is far too costly.

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