Bill challenges county's right to work ordinance
FARMINGTON — San Juan County Commission passed a right to work ordinance in August banning employers from requiring employees to pay union dues or agency fees. A bill introduced in the state House of Representatives would do away with that ordinance.
The bill received a do pass recommendation from the House Judiciary Committee last week and is now pending a hearing on the House floor before it can move onto the Senate. The committee meetings can be viewed online at nmlegis.gov.
Americans for Prosperity, a group pushing for right to work ordinances in counties and cities, has scheduled a rally at 11:30 a.m. at the Roundhouse, 320 Paseo de Peralta in Santa Fe.
Bill sponsor Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, told the judiciary committee last that the bill is not about right to work, it is about the state’s authority to decide if it wants right to work or not.
“That power does not belong with the counties or the cities,” he said.
Ely highlighted a state attorney general’s opinion from January last year informing counties that only the state could enact right to work legislation.
While Ely said the bill is not about right to work, he expressed opposition to right to work and said it requires unions to provide services for free.
“I do not like right to work,” he said. “I think it is misnamed. I think it should be called steal the deal.”
When reached by phone Monday, New Mexico Business Coalition President Carla Sonntag described the bill as unconstitutional because there is a case pending in state Supreme Court regarding these right to work ordinances. The state constitution prohibits the Legislature from passing bills that would impact pending cases.
Sonntag traveled throughout the state over the last year pushing for right to work ordinances in counties and municipalities. She said she was not surprised that the state Legislature would try to pass legislation preventing more counties and municipalities from passing these ordinances.
“I am surprised that they would make it retroactive,” Sonntag said.
Ten counties and the village of Ruidoso have passed right to work ordinances, which were billed as tools to spur economic development including manufacturing. These ordinances only apply to private businesses.
Sonntag said these ordinances have had support from both Democratic and Republican county commissions.
“It is a bipartisan issue, but this piece of legislation is very partisan,” said Sonntag.
She explained that the bill has passed two House committees on party-line votes.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.