AFSCME Council 18

State Launches Assault On Its Own Employees

State Launches Assault On Its Own Employees

By Cayetano Trujillo / Correctional Officer Specialist on Mon, Sep 5, 2011 

Labor Day isn’t at all about the past, it’s about today. It’s about working hard to level the playing field to keep our state’s middle class healthy, to keep it a reality and not just a dream that lower-income families may only aspire to reach. It’s about building on a vision for New Mexicans and our families.

Labor Day is every day and every tomorrow.

Need proof? Look at this troubling example of what’s happening today with negotiations between state employees and the state of New Mexico. In the opening bargaining sessions, the state last month made it clear that it wants to rip us back into a dark past when patronage and favoritism was always put first before public services quality, when, in the last dark decades of New Mexico’s state government, the patronageS and good ol’ boy systems reigned supreme. We had thought we had overcome this, but clearly not.

Since the mid-1980s, except for a brief period, state employees formed unions and participated in collective bargaining with the state. During these years, employees won guarantees of fairness at work through negotiations. We overcame a long tradition where state workers – whether nurses or social workers, environmental scientists, road maintenance employees, police or public safety workers – had no voice over our jobs, over favoritism or over patronage.

Through these contracts, employees brought an even-handed, enlightened form of management to our state government and it benefited citizens. It ensured that experienced, dedicated employees, who actually care about their work and our needs, wouldn’t be subject to the mere whims of every newly appointed director or manager, or political appointee.

This day, however, appears to be over.

In recent weeks, all three unions met at the bargaining table with Gov. Susana Martinez’s representatives, a contracted firm called Management Associates, to reopen our respective contracts. Here is what we were told: Remove everything in your contracts.

The words “fairness” and “equitable” have to go. How to get paid, when to take time off, even when you keep your job, will have no rules. Decent obligations, like bereavement paid time off or sick leave to care for your children or spouse, are over. Any process that makes our labor-management relationship productive so government can be more productive, they’re gone.

The intent of these proposals can’t be clearer; those who rush to protect us, heal us, fix unsafe roads and bridges or improve our water and air, are not priorities. These are the members of middle-class and working-poor families who have struggled to bring security and hope to our communities.

We’re not Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida or Michigan. But the idea that everything middle-class families have strived for needs to be attacked and restrained hasn’t been limited to those states. It’s a growing agenda and apparent in the actions of our state at the bargaining table today.

Ask someone who works to improve the lives of New Mexico’s families in any way, in any fashion, whether Labor Day or any other day representing the civil and human rights of our communities is a day that is past, and they will say no. Labor Day is every day and every tomorrow.

That’s why we’re standing up against this attack on New Mexico’s state employees. By example, and by design, our state government needs to stand up for our hardworking middle class, starting with those who work to make our state and communities a better place to live.

This column also signed by Connie Derr, Robin Gould and Jana Smith-Carr, and David Heshley, all lead negotiators for, respectively, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Communications Workers of America; and Fraternal Order of Police. Together, these unions represent more than 10,000 New Mexico state employees.

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