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March 4, 2003

Collective Bargaining Bill Goes To Governor

By Deborah Baker
The Associated Press
SANTA FE   —   Legislation that revives collective bargaining rights for public workers is headed to Gov. Bill Richardson's desk.
    The House and Senate gave final approval on Tuesday to the measure, which requires the state, counties, cities and school boards to bargain with their unionized workers.
    "Hallelujah," said Christine Trujillo, president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor and the New Mexico Federation of Educational Employees. "It's a long time coming."
    Labor leaders have been trying for four years to renew the bargaining rights law that expired in 1999. But they ran into a wall, as former Gov. Gary Johnson repeatedly vetoed it.
    Richardson, elected in November with heavy backing from labor, supports collective bargaining and is expected to sign the bill.
    Republicans objected to the legislation, which Sen. Rod Adair of Roswell said would be "a disaster for the taxpayers of New Mexico" because wages would spiral upward.
    Unlike the private sector, where competition exists, "government is a monopoly," Adair said.
    "You simply bargain against the taxpayers' pockets, against the taxpayers' wallets," the senator said.