AFSCME Council 18

Judge: Weingarten Rights Apply to Public Employees

 AFSCME City Employees Cannot Be Denied Rights to Representation

The City of Albuquerque’s long standing efforts to deny AFSCME members the right to representation during investigative interviews has hit a wall in Judge Malott’s Second Judicial Court. A clear message has also been sent to Governor Martinez who has been fighting to deny this foundational union right since taking office.

In the opinion and order, AFSCME v. City of Albuquerque Parks, Judge Malott writes that New Mexico’s Public Employee Bargaining Act [PEBA] language is derived from the National Labor Relations Act [NLRA] and, “absent cogent reasons to the contrary”, well-settled, long-standing interpretations on Weingarten Rights in the NLRA should apply to PEBA.

The case is significant for AFSCME’s four City of Albuquerque Locals who continue to fight the Berry Administration’s constant effort to chip away at union protected rights.

On the state side, the Public Employees Labor Relations Board [PELRB] most recently issued an order guaranteeing Weingarten rights to State Employees in May 2013. The order marked the fifth time the board had to act and strike down state challenges on public employee access to Weingarten rights.

Weingarten Rights, as held by the U.S. Supreme Court, say it is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act for an employer to deny an employee’s request that a union representative be present at an “investigatory interview.”

The Court Order makes it clear for AFSCME, the City of Albuquerque, and the State that simply branding a disciplinary meeting as a “chat” or “talk” does not allow the employer to ignore an employee’s right to union representation.

In this case, the AFSCME member’s request to have a union representative present during the meeting and was twice denied. AFSCME sought to have the resulting termination overturned on grounds that the member had his Weingarten rights denied.

During the appeal to the Personnel Board, the City argued that the board did not have jurisdiction over the issue since Weingarten Rights were applicable only to private sector employees.

Judge Malott’s opinion removes the interpretation of Weingarten Rights from management’s hands and gives jurisdiction to the personnel board, calling the Weingarten violation “highly relevant to the Personnel Board.”

Judge Malott’s ruling should clear the way for Governor Martinez to drop her appeal of the board’s latest ruling. She should expect an identical interpretation from the court. However, the Governor appears resolved to waste more time and tax payer money by having yet another hearing in court as she ineffectively struggles to strip away our fundamental rights.

The City of Albuquerque has yet to appeal Judge Malott’s decision. AFSCME State Government Employees can expect a decision or hearing on the State’s case in 60 days.

 


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