AFSCME Council 18

Rio Arriba and Sandoval County Detention Choose AFSCME


New Public Safety Locals Will Continue to Raise Bar for New Mexico

It has been a busy summer for AFSCME Council 18 organizers and the public safety workers who united to organize under the AFSCME flag, ultimately bringing strong worker rights to more than 106 public safety officers!

In a two-day election on July 25 and 26, Rio Arriba County Detention Center Officers voted 12 to 2 to join AFSCME Council 18, covering 18 detention center officers.  And on August 18, Sandoval County Detention Center officers voted 40 to 4 to join Council 18, covering 56 officers, with an additional 32 officers on probation.          

The Rio Arriba County election was conducted by the New Mexico Public Employee Relations Board (PELRB), which officially certified the election results at their  August 9 board meeting. The Sandoval County election was conducted by the County Clerk’s office, in accordance with the Sandoval County Labor Management Relations Ordinance, and was certified by its Labor Management Relations Board on August 23.      

Sandoval County Detention Officers gather following their victorious union election. (L to R) Anita Apodaca, Dora Castillo, Connie Derr - AFSCME Council 18 Executive Director, and Olga Esquibel

“Both of these elections were overwhelming wins for the officers and for AFSCME.  The results tell you that in order to make a stronger, better–run facility, public safety officers must be at the table and in the discussion.  With the extremely high vacancy rates and, in the case of Sandoval County where one-third of the officers have less than a year of experience on the job, the stability of a union contract will go along way to help with the retention and recruitment problems,” said Connie Derr, Council 18 Executive Director. “We are thrilled to welcome the public safety officers in Rio Arriba and Sandoval counties to the AFSCME family!"

Following these successful elections, AFSCME is gathering input from all of the bargaining unit-eligible officers for the first contract, which lay out all terms and conditions of employment.  

AFSCME Council 18 Senior Staff Representative Rocky Gutierrez, who has bargained more than 25 contracts for Council 18 local unions, will serve as chief spokesman for the AFSCME Rio Arriba County bargaining team.  “While County Manager Tomas Campos has publicly reported the county will spend (at least) $30,000 to fight the workers’ issues in negotiations, tax-payer dollars are better invested in its personnel and facility.”

Rio Arriba County Senior Detention Officer and AFSCME organizing committee member, Guy Jordan said that officers have been working towards this victory for 14 years.

“The County had been very skilled at disrupting our previous organizing efforts,” said Jordan, a 14 year officer for Rio Arriba County. “Commissioners and upper level managers are upset we’ve organized, and have said that our ‘union will cause nothing but problems.’ For the other officers and myself, the years-long problems of denying us overtime pay, failing to provide needed training, or avoiding the need to create vital safety policies, those are the only problems that matter and that we’ll be addressing through our union.”

Another RACDC officer and organizing committee member, Santana Bustamante, pointed to other health and safety concerns to be addressed through the bargaining process. “Staffing issues have caused the county to hold officers over for 24 hour shifts. We need a voice in order to stand up for what is fair.” said Bustamante. AFSCME points to research that says 24-hour shifts are dangerous for officers’ well-being and facility safety. British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine researchers in Australia and New Zealand report that sleep deprivation can have some of the same hazardous effects as being drunk. Getting less than 6 hours a night can affect coordination, reaction time and judgment, posing “a very serious risk.”

Sandoval County Detention Center officers will also see vast improvements thanks to a collective union voice. Officers have for years expressed their concerns over serious health and safety lapses inside the facility. Exposed electric wires, painted over black mold, a burgeoning rodent population, and even documented brown recluse spider bites hint at the issues which Officers are demanding be addressed.

Officers raising health and safety issues in the past were subjected to disparate treatment or retaliation. AFSCME is investigating the justification for denying detention officers a funded July raise when other county employees received the retroactive raise.



“Primarily, what we organized for, and what we want is to have a better, safer work environment that is fair for everybody,” said Anita Apodaca, a 12 year detention officer and organizing committee member. “Addressing issues individually has been frowned upon. Now, as a union, our unity has grown stronger, and we hope to negotiate improvements.”

Rob Trombley, who serves as Council 18's public safety coordinator and has also bargained numerous contracts for Council 18 local unions, will serve as chief spokesman for the AFSCME Sandoval County bargaining team.


On August 5, the PELRB hearing officer issued his Report and Recommended Decision recommending Council 18's Petition for Clarification be granted for attorneys / lawyers in the Child Support Enforcement Division of the Human Services Department.  The council filed the petition on October 22, 2015 for approximately 30 attorneys, after which the State unsuccessfully argued several motions, including whether AFSCME is the exclusive representative and that there has been no change in circumstance. The merits hearing was held on February 18 and May 20.  The State has appealed the final decision and that appeal is heard by the PELRB on September 13.    

The State used the same arguments for Council 18's March 8, 2016 Petition for Clarification for Home Health Aide Supervisors and Psychiatric Tech Supervisors working at the Los Lunas  Community Program for the Department of Health, which the hearing officer has dismissed.  The merits hearing on this petition should be scheduled after the September 13 Board meeting.


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