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Gov. Wins Labor Battle

SANTA FE – Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has won a legal battle that gives her control of a state board that referees disputes over working conditions and union contracts affecting government workers and some educators.

A state labor leader said Tuesday that a pair of court rulings may allow the governor to try to neutralize New Mexico’s collective bargaining law through her selection of Public Employee Labor Relations Board members.

“It’s a win for her right now, but hopefully it won’t be a big win. We’ll just have to figure out other options to prevent her from doing away with collective bargaining,” said Christine Trujillo, president of the American Federation of Teachers in New Mexico.

Trujillo said unions don’t plan to appeal the latest court ruling over the governor’s power to select board members. The state Supreme Court turned down a union request late last month to remove retired Clovis Deputy Police Chief Roger Bartosiewicz, whom the governor had appointed to the three-member board. Unions contend the governor should have been required to appoint an Albuquerque lawyer they recommended for the board.

Under state law, the governor names one board member recommended by labor, one designated by public employers and a third recommended by the other two appointees. Unions contend that approach ensures the board is neutral in resolving disputes between unions and public employers – from state agencies to some school districts and local governments.

“Gov. Martinez is pleased that her right to make appointments to the Public Employee Labor Relations Board remains in place with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the unions’ latest challenge,” said Greg Blair, a spokesman for the governor.

The board enforces the state’s collective bargaining law over job-related issues such as whether employees have been treated unfairly because of their union support. However, the board is not responsible for resolving contract negotiation disputes between unions and employers.

The latest decision by the Supreme Court appears to end a fight between Martinez and public employee unions that began last year when the state’s highest court ruled against the governor when she tried to oust two board members soon after she took office.

The latest case dealt with one of those board members, Albuquerque lawyer John Boyd, whom the Supreme Court initially blocked the governor from removing. His term expired in June, and Martinez replaced Boyd with Bartosiewicz. Unions sued, and state District Judge Nan Nash ruled early last month that the governor’s appointment was proper because a local union, the Clovis Police Officers Association, had recommended Bartosiewicz. However, a majority of public employee unions in the state had wanted the governor to reappoint Boyd.

The state Supreme Court denied the unions’ request to overturn Nash’s decision. The court issued a brief order at the end of last month with no explanation for its ruling.
— This article appeared on page C01 of the Albuquerque Journal