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Labor Board Dispute Heads Back to Court

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A second attempt by Gov. Susana Martinez to clean house at the state Public Employees Labor Relations Board has landed her back before the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Labor unions have asked the Supreme Court to order Martinez to reappoint Albuquerque lawyer John Boyd to the labor relations board.

Under state law, the governor must appoint a board member who is recommended by organized labor, and Boyd was picked by former Gov. Bill Richardson to fill that slot.

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Major unions wanted Boyd reappointed when his term expired at the end of the June, but Martinez replaced him with R.E. “Bart” Bartosiewicz, retired deputy chief of the Clovis Police Department.

The Governor’s Office said Bartosiewicz, a Republican, qualified for the labor seat on the board because he was recommended by the Clovis Police Officers Association.

In a petition filed with the Supreme Court on Thursday, unions said Martinez had “engineered a nominee more to her liking and thus trammeled the rights of public employees to seek fair and impartial adjudications” before the labor relations board.

Scott Darnell, a spokesman for the governor, said Martinez believes Bartosiewicz will be fair in his duties as a board member.

Darnel said Bartosiewicz, who was a police officer for more than 35 years, was selected because he has extensive service as a public employee and held leadership posts in his labor organization.

The labor relations board oversees collective bargaining between government agencies and labor and hears complaints of contract violations.

The administration believes the board tilted in favor of organized labor under Richardson, and Martinez has made appointments to the board a priority at the same time that she has been slow in replacing Richardson appointees on some other boards and commissions.

The governor opposes collective bargaining for public employees, but isn’t pushing legislation to do away with it and says she believes she can find common ground with workers.

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Christine Trujillo, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, said Martinez’s “hidden agenda” is to do away with collective bargaining.

The labor relations board has three members and is supposed to be an evenhanded arbiter. State law says the governor must appoint one member recommended by organized labor, one member recommended by public employers and one so-called neutral member jointly recommended by both the labor and public employer appointees.

On March 1, Martinez fired all three members of the board. Organized labor then sued, seeking reinstatement of Boyd and the neutral member, Duff Westbrook, also an Albuquerque lawyer.

A unanimous Supreme Court sided with the unions, ruling the board “must remain free from the control of the executive” because it makes decisions on complaints brought against the governor and her agencies.

Boyd and Westbrook were ordered reinstated. There was no dispute over Martinez’s appointment of Wayne Bingham, another Albuquerque lawyer, as the board member for public employers.

Darnell said the board violated state laws and rules and amassed a backlog of cases during Boyd’s tenure. “Accordingly, the governor selected another appointee properly recommended to her in accordance with the law,” he said in an email.

Martinez appointed Bartosiewicz to serve until June 30, 2014.

In a letter to the governor in March, Bartosiewicz pledged to “do my best for what’s right for the employee and the organization they represent.”

Labor’s petition filed with the Supreme Court says every public employee bargaining unit in the state recommended that Martinez reappoint Boyd and that the governor was legally required to follow that recommendation.

The petition also says the president of the State Lodge for the Fraternal Order of Police, the parent organization for the Clovis Police Officers Association, revoked the recommendation of Bartosiewicz by the Clovis association and supported Boyd’s reappointment. Bartosiewicz is a state trustee for the State Lodge.

Martinez also hasn’t given up on replacing Westbrook on the labor relations board.

Because Westbrook’s term expired last year, Bingham and Bartosiewicz can now recommend a replacement and they should consider doing so, Darnell said.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at tcole@abqjournal.com or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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