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Friday, March 11, 2011
Unions: Reinstate Labor Board
By Dan Boyd
Journal Capitol Bureau
SANTA FE — Public employee union leaders are demanding that Gov. Susana Martinez reinstate several members of a state labor board who were dismissed earlier this month.
Union officials sent a strongly worded letter to Martinez earlier this week voicing concerns about the handling of the New Mexico Public Employees Relations Board and plan to hold a Saturday rally outside the Roundhouse.
They are also considering legal action against the first-term Republican governor's administration.
"In the last four weeks, Governor Martinez has eliminated the structure required by state law which existed to enforce New Mexico's public sector bargaining rights," said Christine Trujillo, president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.
Specifically, Trujillo accused Martinez of "overreaching" by firing the labor board's entire membership and executive director.
More than 100 local unions signed on to the letter, which was sent Tuesday by Albuquerque attorney Shane Youtz.
Martinez dismissed the labor relations board's three board members on March 1.
She also fired the agency's executive director, Pam Gentry, on Feb. 5 and has yet to fill the position.
Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said the personnel decisions were made as part of the administration's review of every state board and commission. A number of other state boards have also been overhauled since Martinez took office in January.
"The governor is reviewing applications and is moving as quickly as possible to fill the positions," Darnell said Thursday.
The Public Employees Labor Relations Board oversees the state's collective bargaining law and helps resolve disputes between government agencies and employees.
The board's three members are one labor appointee, one state government appointee and one neutral, or joint, appointee. All of the board's hearings that had been scheduled for February were canceled, according to the agency's website.
Collective bargaining, which allows employees to negotiate as a unit, has been at the core of ongoing protests in Wisconsin.
However, recent attempts to undermine New Mexico's labor laws have been largely unsuccessful.