Union official: County could save money

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By David Giuliani

A union is criticizing the San Miguel County Commission for hiring a firm to deal with employees who want to organize.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has been talking with workers about forming a union. So far, jailers and sheriff’s deputies have expressed an interest, officials say.

Enrique Mejia, a union organizer, said he has found 90 percent support among jailers and deputies. As such, he said it would be a waste of money for all concerned to have an election.

He said that if enough employees sign cards, then the county could go ahead and agree to certification.

Last week, the County Commission voted unanimously to hire Albuquerque-based Management Associates Inc. to help with dealing with the union. The company, owned by John Martinez, will get $125 an hour for management services and $150 an hour for legal services.

“Martinez will want an election. If the county wants to save money, they won’t have an election — an election they’ll lose anyway,” Mejia said. “The more paperwork and the more back and forth, the more money he (Martinez) will make.”

County Manager Les Montoya disagreed.

“It’s not about saving money. It’s about respecting the rights of the employees and following the law. We have to do what the law dictates,” Montoya said.

Mejia said the county doesn’t need to hire a firm to make sure it follows the law; it can direct its questions to the state Public Employee Labor Relations Board, he said.

“I don’t go to a lawyer. I go to the state. They say what you can and can’t do,” he said.

Mejia said a union can be certified if enough employees sign cards. He said that’s what happened at the Edgewood, N.M., police department, where all officers backed a union. As a result, Edgewood officials decided against going through the election process and allowed the cards to suffice, Mejia said.

Asked about why employees want a union, Mejia said they are concerned about issues related to training and security.

“They don’t feel they have enough equipment. They don’t feel there is enough training,” he said.

Mejia said pay is also an issue.