A high-profile push to approve a New Mexico right-to-work law stalled during the recent 60-day legislative session, but the issue appears likely to be back next year — both in the Roundhouse and on the 2016 campaign trail.
Business leaders and other backers of the proposed state labor law change say they intend to keep up the pressure, despite strong opposition from state labor unions.
“Nobody locally thinks this issue is dead,” said Drew Dolan, the president of a political committee formed last fall largely to advocate for passage of a right-to-work law. “It’s something our state can do that doesn’t cost a dime and can create more (economic) opportunities the minute it’s approved.”
The group, called Jobs for All New Mexico, drew the ire of majority Senate Democrats during the legislative session by sending out mailers in at least one senator’s district.
But Dolan, who is also the president of Titan Enterprises, an Albuquerque real estate company, said the group will continue to advocate for a right-to-work law. “The goal is to make it a campaign issue,” he said Friday.
All 112 New Mexico legislative seats are up for election in 2016, and many races could be expensive.
On the other side of the issue, labor union leaders say they’re bracing for another attempt at passing right-to-work legislation and also plan to be politically active.
“We absolutely will weigh very heavily where legislators were on basic workplace fairness issues, worker pay and benefits in deciding where we play (in next year’s elections),” said Carter Bundy, political director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union in New Mexico.
He also said the push to make New Mexico the nation’s 26th state with a right-to-work law —Wisconsin became the 25th earlier this year — has galvanized the state’s unions, saying, “We’re united as we have not been in decades.”
This year’s most visible right-to-work measure cleared New Mexico’s Republican-controlled House, but was derailed in a Senate committee on March 10.
It would have meant nonunion employees — in both the private and public sectors — would not have had to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Though union membership cannot be required under federal law, such fees can be mandated under contracts in unionized workplaces.
Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, who sponsored the House-approved bill, said similar legislation likely will be introduced during next year’s shorter legislative session. The governor has the authority to set the agenda for 30-day sessions.
“It’s something I believe in, and it’s something I’d be interested in doing again,” Roch told the Journal. “I think you’re definitely going to see that show up in the 30-day session.
A spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez said Friday the Republican governor “absolutely” continues to support the concept behind the bill, but is currently focused on reviewing bills passed during this year’s session.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, said any future right-to-work bills would have to be scrutinized, but said he believes such laws in other states have stifled worker pay levels.
“If this is a priority of the governor, I would expect it to be back,” he said.