Right-to-Work : many opinions until court ruling

Sandoval County Commission Chairman, Dave Heil

In a recent Rio Rancho Observer editorial titled “Our View: Checking a few steps ahead may save county taxpayers legal fees,” there are some assertions that need a response.

The editorial expressed concerns that the many pro-union factions threatened lawsuits, the Attorney General’s Office cited legal ramifications and the county’s legal counsel wrote an email warning of legal issues.

There is also an inference that there was a lack of expertise in the process, or that by seeking more opinions and massaging the process longer, that a different ordinance would have been the result.

The attorneys supporting the county pro bono on Right to Work are experts in the field.

One was involved in the legal procedures in Kentucky. Unions only sued one of the first 14 counties that went RTW in Kentucky.

The case went to the 6th Circuit Court, where it was found in favor of the county. The Supreme Court chose not to hear the case. 

Kentucky started RTW on a county-by-county basis and is now a RTW state enjoying low unemployment and billions of dollars in investment. Union lawsuits on RTW have failed in Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia also.

The attorney general for Kentucky and the county attorney for Hardin County, Kentucky, had opinions similar to their counterparts in New Mexico. The lawsuits vindicated the RTW movement.

The ordinance approved by the Sandoval County Commission is the same ordinance as Kentucky’s with a few New Mexico legal edits and clarifications that show the ordinance does not apply to government unions or hiring out of union halls. There are no restrictions to prevent unions from organizing, or union members from supporting their unions.

What tends to happen in RTW states is union leadership pays more attention to their members rather than take them for granted. Also as jobs grow in RTW states, in most cases, so do union jobs.

This is a case where you can have many opinions but until you prove the case through the courts one way or another, all you have is opinions, which does little to help New Mexico’s competitiveness.

New Mexico is an island of high poverty, high unemployment and low pay among states that are thriving economically. All of the surrounding states are RTW or, in the case of Colorado, have much more stringent labor regulations.

New Mexico workers are working for less now, making $1 to $3 an hour less than neighboring states.

The main issue is that the majority of site-selectors who help businesses decide where to relocate won’t consider a non-RTW state. They will take their business to one of the other 28 states that is RTW and they will never see the many amenities that New Mexico has to offer.

Is RTW a magic bullet? Hardly. But it is one of the top priorities that business decision-makers look at … and yes, we have some work to do on their other priorities to make Sandoval County a more attractive place to do business.

(Dave Heil is the District 4 Sandoval County commissioner, and voted for the Right-to-Work ordinance.)

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