If you step aside from the union rhetoric of Gov. Susana Martinez’s “declaration of war” on workers, and the governor’s references to “union bosses” and “big money,” the debate over the state of New Mexico making payroll deductions for organized labor is at its core much like the Albuquerque debate over “union time,” in which the public long paid for a firefighter or police officer or government manager to do union work instead of fight fires or police or manage.
Quite simply, it’s expecting taxpayers to pick up a tab that isn’t theirs. Of course, that explanation doesn’t draw political donations like saying “there’s no question (Martinez is) coming to cut the unions off at the knees, but we didn’t know she was going for the head.” Or that “the union bosses have made it clear they will spend big money here to defeat me and stop our progress.”
Political campaigns aside, what tax-paying New Mexicans need to know is that right now their government is spending time, money and energy collecting union dues for union business that should in fact be expended by unions. As the governor has said, “I believe the union – not taxpayers – should be the ones collecting dues for union activities.”
She’s correct. That isn’t passing judgment on the value of a union; it’s simply putting the bill for work done where it belongs.
State law, unfortunately and unfairly, requires non-union employees to pay union “fees” if their job is represented by a union. But having the state make union payroll deductions is a courtesy, not a “right,” as American Federation of Teachers New Mexico union President Stephanie Ly claims. And it is within the state’s purview to decide to no longer extend that courtesy, especially when it comes at the expense of the tax-paying public.
Furthermore, just because the alternative is hard – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees argues that it would “have to go out and knock on 11,000 doors every two weeks to collect dues” – doesn’t change that.
Martinez is right that the dues are used for political attacks, whether that’s directly or as a way to free up other monies. AFT and AFSCME combined to give $350,000 to one political group during one reporting period leading up to 2012’s general election. The Communications Workers of America has also been a big bankroller of political activity in New Mexico.
But beyond negative campaigning, the bottom line is just as Albuquerque taxpayers no longer pay for firefighter or manager union time (a new police contract remains on hold in part because of the issue), New Mexico taxpayers should not have to pay for someone’s else’s business.
There is quite enough of their own.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.