|AFSCME Council 18|
NM Supremes To Rule on 5 Year BACK PAY Case!
Shane Youtz AFSCME Attorney hangs tough following the hearing as State Legal Team lick wounds following NM supreme court hearing.
Not an Illusion: $20 Million Dollars / 10,000 NM State Employees
Attorney for the State Tom Stahl, today asked NM Supreme Court Justices to entertain the state’s position against awarding retroactive wage increases. Essentially, Stahl argued that the NM Legislature, and NOT the Executive, should provide specificity for each tax dollar appropriated. Representing AFSCME and CWA, Attorney Shane Youtz offered that such argument implies that public employees are obliged to lobby the legislature for every work boot and bulletin board bought by state government.
Justice Bosson remarked to Attorney Stahl, “that’s never been done. To do so would defy tradition and history...by doing this you would argue for these [Union] contracts to be an Illusion.” Pressed by Justices on where the money would come from should the Court rule for the back pay to be dispersed, Stahl took the low road, saying, “the money would come from layoffs or cuts to programs.”
Attorney Youtz laid out a simple and elegant position for the Justices and the 100+ AFSCME members crammed into a capacity NM Supreme Court Building. “Is the State bound by a legal agreement when the legislature appropriates enough money [for the raise] and breeches the contract by using that money elsewhere? For example, if the state enters into a contract to purchase, at a specific price, CAT tractors, and later decides to pay less, CAT has a legal right to hold the State to that agreement and be paid.”
The New Mexico Legislature appropriated more than enough money to compensate approximately 10,000 public employees represented by a union contract in a July 2009 sliding-scale wage increase between 3 and 5.5%. Instead, the Governor's Office directed State Personnel to award a 2.9% across the board increase (union and non-represented). Last year, Governor Martinez’s spokesperson speculated that the cost to pay back union employees their raise would be $20 million. The Governor’s Office ignored a Court of Appeals order to accurately calculate how much is owed in back pay.
AFSCME has been fighting for that underpaid raise for four years. Today’s arguments before the Supreme Court could mark the final hurdle before public employees see checks. We say ‘could‘ because there is question to what lengths Governor Martinez may continue to go to avoid paying public employees their money due.
The New Mexico Supreme Court is expected to deliver their decision this summer or sooner.
Some of the AFSCME members gathering outside the Supreme Court following the hearing May 15 2013
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