Gov. Lujan Grisham signs collective bargaining changes
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday signed a bill that makes changes to New Mexico’s collective bargaining law to better protect state, county and local government workers.
House Bill 364 updates New Mexico’s Public Employee Bargaining Act, providing a timeline to restructure and standardize the state’s unusual system of over 50 local labor boards – more than much larger states including California and New York. The system has led to inconsistent rulings and in some cases lengthy delays on petitions to unionize workplaces.
“Our public employees – including teachers, sanitation workers, firefighters and police officers – deserve uniform rules and a uniform process to negotiate fair wages and safe working conditions,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “This legislation will assure accountability at the local level by requiring local labor boards to adopt standardized rules or default their duties to the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board.”
New Mexico’s Public Employee Bargaining Act, known as PEBA, established the state board and gave it authority to enforce both the act and its own rules and regulations. It also gave the state board authority over public employee collective bargaining matters in any jurisdiction that did not have an active local labor board.
House Bill 364 lays out a timeline from December 2020 to December 2021 for local boards to prove they have the continued support of both public employers and employees in their jurisdiction and they have adopted standardized rules. Local boards that fail to meet the deadlines will cease to exist, and the state board would assume their responsibilities.
“There is no infringement upon or contravention of the public’s right to public information within this law,” said Tripp Stelnicki, the governor’s director of communications. “Concerns about a specific provision involving the transmission of employee information between public agency and union are well-intentioned and valuable, as this administration aims to honor and restore transparency in government after eight years of the opposite. But what was publicly accessible is very much still publicly accessible.”
The measure, which was thoroughly vetted by cities, counties and school superintendents schools, passed the House 43-25 and passed the Senate 24-17.
The governor also signed Senate Bill 98, which establishes a penalty for contractors who violate the Public Works Minimum Wage Act by paying workers less than the appropriate prevailing wage or prevailing fringe benefit.
The law, first passed in 1937, requires the director of the Labor Relations Division of the Department of Workforce Solutions to establish wages and fringe benefits that contractors must pay workers on any publicly funded construction project worth more than $60,000.
Previously, if a contractor was found to have short-changed a worker, the employer had to pay the back wages or benefits. The bill by Sen. Jacob Candelaria increases the payback to three times what the worker was owed plus $100 per day the employee worked at the lower rate.
The measure also establishes a mediation process to assure a speedy resolution of disputes between employee and employer.