Berry Administration May Block City Labor Board Chair

Apr 18, 2011

Albuquerque, NM – The New Mexico Supreme Court ordered Governor Susana Martinez to restore the state Labor Board in Santa Fe last week. But KUNM has learned the City of Albuquerque has not had a functioning Labor Board since Republican Mayor Richard Berry was elected. That long delay may be over. The Labor Board is scheduled to hold its first public meeting in 18 months. On Tuesday, the Board will finalize the nomination of a neutral Board Chairman.

Once selections are complete, the three members will work to catch up with 100 complaints filed by various unions representing city workers. One of those complaints is from city bus and van drivers. They're upset with a decision to deny their petition for a new union election.

Last month, city chief administrative officer Rob Perry told drivers he was rejecting a vote until after the current union is de-certified. He also wants drivers to wait one year before selecting a new union. But with their current contract expiring in June, veteran drivers like Ernest Lucero say Perry's decision would leave them without representation during upcoming union negotiations. "They want us to back out," Lucero says, "so they don't have to re-negotiate another contract. I'm sure this is part of their plan."

Drivers say they're planning to show up in force at Tuesday's meeting to voice their concerns, but the meeting could be halted before it even starts. Email records obtained by KUNM indicate the Mayor's staff may challenge the selection of George Bach as the Board's neutral chairman. The emails say it could be a conflict because he has previously represented City employees in labor cases.

City Counselor Ken Sanchez says the city Labor Board has to be organized sooner rather than later. That's "to assure that when the negotiations are taking place that the taxpayers are protected and at the same time the employees are also protected," he says.