What to know about San Juan County’s proposed right-to-work ordinance

Commissioners likely to vote on issue on Aug. 7

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
San Juan County Commission

AZTEC — The San Juan County Commission is considering adopting a “right-to-work” ordinance that would prevent employees from being required to pay membership dues or join unions.

The commission unanimously approved publishing a notice of intent to adopt the ordinance during its July 10 meeting.

While the county is publishing a notice, County Attorney Doug Echols said that does not necessarily mean the county will approve the ordinance.

What do supporters and opponents say?

Supporters say it will spur economic development and create jobs. Supporters say right-to-work ordinances give employees choice and transfer power back to the workers.

The New Mexico Business Coalition, the Rio Grande Foundation and Americans for Prosperity are among the groups supporting the ordinance.

Opponents say the ordinance could lower union participation and allow workers to benefit from the union without paying for its services. Opponents argue that the ordinance could weaken unions and lead to lower wages.

The New Mexico Federation of Labor opposes the ordinance.

MORE:Navajo Nation Council to meet for summer session

Who would the ordinance affect?

The ordinance would only impact future contracts and would only apply to private-sector businesses in unincorporated areas of San Juan County. The ordinance would not impact public employees such as teachers, firefighters or police officers.

Which New Mexico counties have right-to-work ordinances?

Sandoval, Otero, Chaves and Lincoln counties have passed right-to-work ordinances. All four counties passed right-to-work ordinances this year. McKinley County also has considered a right-to-work ordinance.

There are 28 states that have right-to-work laws, but New Mexico is not one of those states.

MORE:Second deputy chief joins Farmington Police Department

What legal issues are there?

The New Mexico Federation of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Sandoval County claiming that its right-to-work ordinance is illegal. The lawsuit states two unions — the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO, Local 611 and the United Food and Commercial Workers, AFL-CIO, Local 1564 — will be negatively impacted by the ordinance.

State Attorney General Hector Balderas has issued an opinion saying state law does not give counties the authority to pass right-to-work ordinances.

The San Juan County ordinance mirrors the Sandoval County ordinance. Echols said the county copied Sandoval’s ordinance so that the court decision can provide guidance.

How can people comment?

The County Commission will accept public comments during a meeting at 4 p.m. Aug. 7 at the county administration offices, 101 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec. Copies are available on the county website, sjcounty.net, and at the county offices in Aztec.

Written comments can also be delivered to the San Juan County clerk's office at 101 S. Oliver Drive.

The County Commission likely will vote on the ordinance following the public comments on Aug. 7.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

Right-to-Work comes to New Mexico

MORE:Final work underway on new Farmington High School project