Mar 7, 2011
|CWA state workers in New Mexico joined with other union members at a Solidarity Rally.|
Within a month of taking office, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez fired the director of the state’s Public Employee Relations Board.
“That action makes it next to impossible for the agency to enforce the state’s public workers’ bargaining law,” said District 7 Staff Representative Robin Gould, a former state worker, and CWA’s legislative political coordinator for New Mexico. “It’s like abolishing the entire National Labor Relations Board.”
New Mexico state workers, members of CWA Local 7076, are facing the same kind of attacks as state workers across the nation. Republican governors and legislatures are trying to make public workers the scapegoat for big budget deficits that in fact have been caused by the Great Recession, the Wall Street mortgage scam that enriched bankers but devastated working families, and a right-wing agenda looking to favor political and business interests.
Local 7076’s 4,000 members don’t have full collective bargaining rights. They can bargain over pay, but not pensions or health care.
And even that right is limited. After completing negotiations with state agencies, the governor and legislature still weigh in and can overrule negotiations. Workers still are waiting for the raise they negotiated in 2009, pay increases ranging from to 2 to 6 percent. Lower-paid workers would receive the higher increases. The state refused to honor the negotiations and instead gave all workers a 2 percent raise. The average wage for New Mexico state workers is $16 an hour; some earn barely $10 an hour.
“We’re now waiting to see what’s in store for our pension which was nearly fully funded before the recession,” said Local 7076 President Michelle Lewis. “At least a dozen bills affecting our pension have been introduced.”
State workers already pay 8 percent of pay into their pension plan. The governor not only wants to increase that to as much as 12 percent, but is looking to lower the state’s contribution as well. “If our plan is so underfunded, why would the governor and others reduce the state’s fair share. That will only make our plan’s financial situation worse,” Lewis said.
Local 7076 members already have held a Lobby Day and are continuing face-to-face meetings with state lawmakers, pressing for fairness and reminding legislators of the sacrifices public workers already have made.