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Right-to-work bills front and center in session

SANTA FE – Another proposal to make New Mexico a so-called right-to-work state – by changing the state’s labor laws – has hit the Roundhouse after being pre-filed this week by three House Republicans.

Specifically, the proposed legislation would bar nonunion employees in both the private and public sectors from having to pay union fees as a condition of their employment. Such fees can currently be mandated in workplaces covered by collective bargaining agreements.

The bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, said the measure would spur economic development by making the state more desirable to businesses.

He also said the bill is not aimed primarily at weakening labor unions, a charge that opponents have levied.

“The choice needs to be in the hands of the worker, not the union,” Roch said Tuesday. “The goal is to create a climate that helps to engender job creation.”

Union leaders and top-ranking Democratic legislators have vowed to fight right-to-work legislation during the coming 60-day legislative session, which starts Jan. 20.

Carter Bundy, political and legislative director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union in New Mexico, has disputed the suggestion that New Mexico’s lack of a right-to-work law has hampered the state’s attempts to lure out-of-state corporations, such as Tesla Motors.

“This is just an attempt by out-of-state corporate billionaires to tell New Mexicans how to run their state,” Bundy told The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, a separate right-to-work bill that would affect only private-sector workers has been pre-filed in the Senate. That measure’s sponsor, Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, has also proposed legislation that would end state government’s practice of deducting union dues, or fees, from employee paychecks on behalf of unions.

The renewed push for right-to-work legislation was prompted by a GOP takeover of the House for the first time in 60 years. Right-to-work proposals have faltered in the Legislature in recent years, and approved legislation was vetoed in 1979 and 1981.

Based on the November general election results, Republicans now hold a 37-33 majority in the chamber. However, Democrats still hold an advantage in the Senate, and top-ranking Democratic senators have voiced opposition to right-to-work legislation.

Gov. Susana Martinez, who just began her second term in office, has voiced support for such legislation, though she did not make it a key part of her first-term legislative agenda.

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