Deputies, jailers vote for union

-A A +A
By David Giuliani

San Miguel County’s jailers and deputies on Wednesday unanimously voted for a union to represent them.

It may well be the first time in the county government’s history that workers have formed a union, officials say.

All 22 employees who took part in the election supported having the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as their representative in negotiations with county officials.

Twenty-eight were eligible to vote; probationary employees, who have been with the county for less than a year, couldn’t take part.

The union will represent nearly 50 employees.

It’s apparently rare to have a unanimous pro-union vote. Juan Montoya, the executive director of the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board, who retired Wednesday, said that in his seven years directing union elections, he couldn’t remember an instance in which employees had a consensus.

Enrique Mejia, a union organizer with AFSCME, said he had been in the organizing business since 1995 and that he hadn’t seen a unanimous vote.

Mejia, who helped organize the county union, said that in talking with employees, he had found many felt that officials weren’t listening to their concerns. He said they were concerned about training and security issues.

Mejia said employees also wanted rules for seniority, which would determine who gets such things as day shifts. As it stands, such benefits are often decided by favoritism, he said.

“These deputies and officers are willing to work with the county leadership to benefit the community,” Mejia said.

The union has disagreed with the county’s decision to hire Albuquerque-based Management Associates Inc. to help it with union matters. The firm makes $125 an hour for management services and $150 an hour for legal services.

The county has said it hired Management Associates to help it with the law.

Mejia, however, called the contract with the consultants “just a waste of money.”

“If you want to know the law, ask the state (Public Employee Labor Relations Board),” he said.

County officials couldn’t be reached for comment on the union election.

But County Manager Les Montoya said before that he wanted to make sure that all employees were represented fairly.