New Mexico Counties Gain Right-to-Work

By Kelly Yessin

New Mexico has spent 45 years ignoring policy that could promote its economy and job growth at no cost to taxpayers. Despite being surrounded by states that have flourished after aligning themselves with right-to-work, New Mexico has, as Robert “Burly” Cain the State Director for Americans for Prosperity in New Mexico puts it, “protected the status quo, when the status quo in New Mexico is really poor.”

Right-to-work prohibits employers and government unions from forcing employees to join or financially support a union. An employee should be able to decide if they want to pay dues to a union without fear of losing their job. Though it’s shocking to hear, states typically thought of as pro-union states such as Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Indiana have voted to adopt right-to-work legislation. These states realize that right-to-work, despite the union’s negative portrayal, functions under the principles of free speech, free choice, and the restoration of workers’ rights.

Passing right-to-work would allow New Mexico to better compete with the surrounding states, something its economy desperately needs. New Mexico has historically had little support for right-to-work. However, as of May 2018, Sandoval, Otero, Lincoln, and Chavez Counties have voted to support right-to-work. As a result, Cain expects a domino effect on numerous other counties, such as Bernalillo and Dona Ana. Local officials are making the choices that best support their communities when the state government refuses to act. The American City County Exchange (ACCE) has local right-to-work model policy that can be found on our website here.

By the end of 2018, Cain estimates that 15 of the 33 total counties will vote in support of right-to-work. “We have to have a more robust conversation,” Cain says, describing the fact that “the union has failed to listen to its members and the economy, not supporting an effort to go forward with right-to-work, when right-to-work is the only place where it’s growing.” Echoing this comment, Carla Santogg with the New Mexico Business Coalition agrees that “we can see a difference in the right-to-work states and the non-right-to-work states… the opportunities are significant for both the economy and the people.”

While Matt Patterson, President of 1st Amendment First, hopes for just as many counties as Cain’s estimation, he admits that it is “hard to know with the 2018 elections” and even goes on to refer to such elections as a “wild card.”

Patterson praises his colleagues for their hard work “laying the groundwork.” While he has always thought unions were doing something wrong by “expecting people to give up their first amendment rights,” he is happy that more counties are recognizing the benefits of right-to-work policy, such as the fiscal boost, freedom of speech, and worker freedom. Patterson affirms that “people are catching on” that right-to-work protects worker’s choice.

When asked about the future of right-to-work in the state legislature, Cain affirmed that adoption at the county level shows support to the state government, allowing for a “good shot at having New Mexico with a right-to-work legislature state in 2018.”

But why stop at New Mexico?

In the past six years, the number of states passing right-to-work has jumped from 22 to 28. That is one every year. This momentum seems poised to continue. And in Cain’s opinion, “in the next six years, you can double it (passage of right-to-work legislation)… if not more.”

Contributing to this optimistic goal is the Janus v AFSCME Supreme Court Case, which Patterson believes “will probably make government workers all over the country right-to-work.” The more people are familiar with right-to-work the more people will realize the benefits of the policy. When workers have more choice, unions have to be more responsive to worker needs instead of funneling money out of communities to national organizations and political campaigns. With this in mind, Patterson agrees right-to-work will have “4-5 more states in the next six years.”

Sontagg, who calls right-to-work a “growing trend”, sees the Janus Case as “an opportunity to increase momentum” when recruiting states for right-to-work. Through the support of the New Mexico counties and Janus’ success in Supreme Court, New Mexico has a fighting chance to economically thrive and restore fairness and security, just as right-to-work intends it.