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Sally Gurley of Solamente Clay co-hosted the Placitas Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-Off last month. Also attending (pictured above right) is Debbie Navarro of Farmer’s Insurance. The Chamber raised $300 for the Mothers Day Out Pre-K program in Placitas. Chili competition winners included: (#1) Elizabeth Potters “Very Greasy Chili," (#2) Randall Phillips “Green Chili Chow Chow Deviled Eggs," and (#3) Carlos Roybal “Green Chili Apple Pie.”


County, unions rumble over   “right-to-work”

~Bill Diven

Sandoval County plunged into a national labor-management fracas as it moves toward banning the collection of union fees from nonmembers working at private businesses.

Sponsoring Commissioners Jay Block and David Heil, both Rio Rancho Republicans, described the move as an economic-development measure that will bring new out-of-state employers to the county. Labor leaders call it part of a national attempt to bust the unions that generally support Democrats more than Republicans.

Promoters brand such legislation as “right-to-work,” although union membership is not required to get and hold a job in New Mexico.

By law, employers and unions that negotiate contracts can neither force employees to join a union nor pay for union political activities. They can, however, require non-union workers to pay fees toward the cost of bargaining and enforcing contracts.

"What I'm interested in is growing jobs in New Mexico, specifically Sandoval County," Heil said during the October 5 commission meeting. He then cited the Sandoval Economic Alliance, funded by the county and the city of Rio Rancho to recruit new businesses, as saying a majority of site selectors they deal with have right-to-work as the No. 1 or 2 item on their checklists and look elsewhere if they don't find it.

"Who from a marketing standpoint eliminates half the businesses they're going after?" Heil said.

During the public-comment section of the meeting, Carter Bundy, legislative director for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said that surveys by a magazine prominent among business site locators show right-to-work is not a priority.

"Not once, in all the years they've conduct their surveys of the most important reasons for site location, not once has right-to-work appeared in the top 10," Bundy said. "This is about busting unions, pure and simple."

Attempts to pass so-called right-to-work laws at the state level have failed in New Mexico and elsewhere, and the fight has increasingly moved to the county level. About 49,000 people—six percent of New Mexico's workforce—belong to a union, with another 15,000 represented for bargaining purposes, according to a federal report for 2016.

If the ordinance is approved, a legal challenge is likely, and commissioners already have met in closed session about that possibility.

About two-thirds of New Mexico's union workers are in the public sector, including various unions representing Sandoval County sheriff's deputies, firefighters, and Detention Center officers. AFSCME says it represents nine hundred public employees across the county.

Block and Heil's ordinance would not apply to public employees, although union leaders contend they would be the next targets. The U.S. Supreme Court might make that issue moot as it currently is considering a right-to-work challenge to public-sector union fees.

The proposed ordinance is expected to be on the November 2 commission agenda for a vote on posting and publishing, a minimum 15-day process of public notice preceding a vote on the ordinance itself.

In other commission activities, in October Rheganne Vaughn, New Mexico manager for Universal Waste Systems, reported that the company is preparing to begin household trash pickup in rural Sandoval County. The company, which won the first such county contract earlier this year, has opened a yard and office, bought new equipment, accepted employment application, surveyed its routes, and handed out fliers, she said.

"We're getting a great response," Vaughn said. "We're invested in the community and look forward to our January 1 start."

The service does not reach into Placitas, after residents here convinced the county that they were happy with the three competing trash haulers already serving the area.

Commissioners also approved appointing Peter Adang of Placitas, a former Taos County zoning commissioner, to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Commissioner James Holden-Rhodes nominated Adang to replace chairman John Arango of Algodones, who resigned in September over the county's proposed Oil and Gas Ordinance.

Polling places for the 2018 primary and general elections also were approved. The plan, subject to site changes, calls for 26 voting convenience centers, where voters from any precinct can vote, and 23 traditional polling places for voters from those precincts.

Also approved in October was the county's wish list for funding from the 2018 Legislature convening for thirty days beginning January 16. Topping the list is $1 million for security improvements at the Detention Center, scene of recent escapes, followed by Paseo del Volcán right-of-way purchases ($1 million), an offsite data-protection facility ($112,000), communication improvements for first responders ($2.5 million), and replacing a bridge on County Road 11 south of Cuba ($450,000)

 
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