AFSCME Council 18

AFSCME Metro Detention Center Officers Win in NM District Court: County Cannot Impose Conditions, Must Return to Bargaining Table

Relations had grown chilly between Union Detention Officers and Management at Bernalillo County Metro Detention Center over the past year and a half. On January 5, New Mexico Second Judicial Court’s Judge Malott agreed with AFSCME Officers, saying that management actions had “left the union voiceless,” and ordered the county back to the negotiations table with the union.

Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center Officers believe County Manger Zdunek has back-room engineered a retaliation campaign against 420 (mostly union) detention officers after they won a July 2014 prohibited practice complaint against management for unilaterally changing the shift bidding process.

MDC Detention Officers of AFSCME Local 2499 have protections in their contract giving them rights to bid over the posts they work and a choice of when to schedule their weekends with family.

The problems began in March 2014 when MDC management circulated a chart dictating what posts each employee would be assigned to in violation of a 2013 memorandum of understanding with the union.

Local 2499 President and MDC Lieutenant Stephen Perkins said, “Management and the union had already struck an agreement on how officers could bid for posts and days off. It had been working well for 18 months. In March, all that went out the window for no operational purpose.”

Believing that the unilateral change was a violation of the officers bargaining rights, the local took the dispute before the Bernalillo County Labor Board who ruled in the union’s favor and directed the county to return to the negotiations table. That is when the real retaliation began according to union members.

The county ignored the board’s order and never sat down to negotiate changes to the shift bid process. Instead, the county doubled down and took further action deemed illegal by the Court on Monday per the county’s labor ordinance.

First, in the fall of 2014, management circulated a new shift bidding schedule that moved almost every Officer’s weekend to weekdays instead of the traditional two days between Friday and Monday.

Second, and most egregious, county management, solicited advice from private law firm on establishing a work group of correction officers with the mission to undermine the influence of the union.

Local leadership obtained the email which describes the purpose of the work group to bypass the union and bargain directly with employees,

From the email: “…As I envision this group… COs [Corrections Officers] would act as a counter weight against the influence of the union.”

Having had developed civil and mutually beneficial working relationships with MDC management over the years, union members suspect the interference and aggressive stance is being orchestrated from the county manager’s office.

Perceiving that the county’s action were illegal under the law, and clearly violated the spirit of good faith bargaining, the union Monday sought a writ of mandamus from the Bernalillo County Second Judicial Court. Mandamus exists [in part] to preclude public officials from committing illegal acts.

Judge Malott agreed, granted the union’s request and ruled from the bench that the county must return to the negotiations table and follow the protocols set forth in the ordinance to negotiate an agreement on the issue of shift bidding. If the parties are unable to agree, the ordinance dictates third party binding arbitration will be used.

In a final question, union counsel Shane Youtz asked what the court prescribed should the county again ignores a ruling to negotiate, Judge Malott said, “I’m here every day,” indicating he would be prepared to deliver a sterner directive should the county refuse to abide the spirit of his ruling.

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