By Rob Nikolewski | New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE — It figures to face an uphill battle in the Democrat-controlled New Mexico Legislature, but a bill that would prohibit hiring based on union membership — and ban the practice of taking union dues from employees unless they specifically authorize it — will get a hearing this session.
“It is a matter of personal freedom,” said Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, who is sponsoring the “Employee Preference Act” (House Bill 351). “And this is one way to encourage more businesses to come to the state without having to unionize. That’s all this does.”
As you’d expect, union leaders are dead-set against the bill.
“When you allow people to free-ride, to get all the benefits of being in a union … you’ve essentially eviscerated the union,” said Carter Bundy of the New Mexico chapter of the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees. “It’s essentially busting unions.”
HB351 would prohibit employers in the state from requiring potential employees be approved or recommended by a labor organization. The law also would require the state Attorney General or local district attorneys to prosecute violators.
A fiscal impact report estimates the cost of the bill at between $60,000-$80,000 in the next fiscal year.
“To me, this is not a controversial bill at all,” Ezzell told New Mexico Watchdog. “It’s just giving that particular employee the right to join or not to join.”
“Since the union is legally obligated to provide a set of services,” Bundy said, “there are a lot things where I’d rather not pay taxes for what our government does. There are things my employer takes out of my paycheck that I might not want.”
HB351 will have its first committee hearing on Tuesday in the House Labor and Human Resources committee, which is made up of five Democrats and four Republicans.
And with the House made up of 38 Democrats and 32 Republicans, the hurdles for the “Employee Preference Act” seem high.
Similar bills “generally have been killed in this state,” Bundy said.
“I would expect that to happen again this year, but you never know until the votes are taken,” he said.
Some 30 years ago New Mexico almost became a “right to work” state, which would have secured the right of employees to decide for themselves whether to join or financially support a union.
In 1979 and 1981 the Legislature passed right-to-work laws, but each time, the bills were vetoed by then-Gov. Bruce King.
Contact Rob Nikolewski at firstname.lastname@example.org