AFSCME Council 18

Martinez Administration Still Playing Games with Other People’s Money

Governor Martinez’s Administration is missing a golden opportunity to show state employees some respect this May as AFSCME members mark a two year anniversary since the NM Supreme Court ruled they’re owed $30 million in back pay.

It will be two years this month since over 10,400 current and former New Mexico State Employees were told by the State Supreme Court that they were right, and Governor Martinez was wrong to withhold years of back wages owed to them under a raise promised in the union contract.

Read the May 15, 2013 Story: NM Supremes To Rule on 5 Year BACK PAY Case!"

While 9,000 checks have been printed and distributed, the over one thousand current and former union members awaiting their checks are feeling disrespected by the administration. The state’s standard explanation, that the calculations are “complicated”, isn’t holding water in the face of facts that over $2.3 million taxpayer dollars have already been spent hiring one of the world’s largest crack-squad accounting team, BDO, USA to help with the math.

“The Governor needs to walk through the state buildings right now and explain to the employees why the wage theft repayment has taken over seven years to fully pay back state employees,” said Casey Padilla, president of AFSCME Council 18.

“Governor Martinez and her administration have not provided any reasonable explanation to AFSCME or its members as to why they are dragging their feet to settle this matter,” said AFSCME Council 18 Executive Director, Connie Derr. “What we do receive are emails which stonewall our efforts to get answers, blame the union for delays, and offer the same ‘it’s complicated’ excuse month after month. It is unacceptable to ask these hard-working state employees to continue to hold an IOU.”

“Close to 1,000 checks are left to be calculated and printed, and the rate of disbursement has slowed to a trickle.” said Miles Conway, AFSCME communications coordinator. “In early May, the state produced only 145 checks. At this current trajectory, union members are being asked to wait at least 10 more months before getting what’s owed to them. We’re talking millions of dollars in stolen wages that the government is holding onto while workers are missing out on purchasing power or interest they could be earning on that money.”

In addition, AFSCME has evidence that a small number of the checks weren’t calculated accurately, evidence the state is making every effort to ignore. In the case of approximately 100 Corrections Officers at the Penitentiary outside Santa Fe, the back pay calculation used incorrect figures to determine their June 2008 base hourly pay. This resulted in them receiving a lower back pay percentage than they were owed.

During a meeting in the fall of 2014, AFSCME and representatives from the State Personnel Office and the Department of Information Technology agreed that the State Department of Finance and Administration should push ahead and print back pay checks for the lion’s share of state workers, and the parties would meet again in January 2015, or shortly thereafter, assuming most of the checks were printed, to rectify the pay for Corrections Officers.

The January deadline sailed past with the state only managing to print and distribute less than half of the entire amount. Since then, the spokespeople for the State’s pay plan team have been evasive and indicate they are unwilling to meet and fix their miscalculations without another court battle.

The state has refused to provide individual calculation sheets to members or AFSCME so the accuracy of calculations might be confirmed. Freedom of Information requests have likewise hit a brick wall with the state re-directing state employees back to AFSCME (or CWA).

AFSCME International Economist Mike Messina, who tested and approved of the state’s general methodology following the court ruling, wonders at the games being played by the administration. “Whether the state actually wants to adhere to the supreme court ruling is questionable given its balking at ensuring all state employees will receive the properly calculated amount of back pay.”

AFSCME continues to apply pressure for the expedited resolution to all issues surrounding the fiscal year 2009 arbitration award. Whether through testimony at State Personnel Board meetings, direct communication with the state’s pay plan team, or interaction with the Attorney General’s Office for assistance around the Inspection of Public Records request denials, AFSCME remains committed to ensuring sure every state employee owed back pay receives an accurate check.

AFSCME is more than eager to hear from the Governor’s administration and have them explain, in specific terms, why the flow of checks has slowed to trickle. In the two closing months of 2014, the state managed to generate over 5,000 back pay checks. For the union members still owed money, the Governor should act now and demonstrate some real will and respect for these men, women, and families who devote their careers to public service.

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