- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - In what is the latest battleground to transform labor laws across the country, a new proposal in New Mexico would bar private- and public-sector workers from being required to join unions as a condition for employment.

Three Republican lawmakers announced Monday that they have filed a bill as part of an effort to drastically change New Mexico’s labor laws and make New Mexico a “right-to-work” state.

“We support anyone who wants to join a union or financially contribute to one,” said Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, one of the sponsors of the new proposal. “However, hardworking New Mexicans should never be forced to join a union or financially contribute to one as a condition of employment. This legislation gives our workers the freedom of choice.”

The measure goes further than a proposal from Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, which only would bar private-sector employees from the union requirement.

Supporters of the new bill say it would spur economic growth and attract businesses to the state. “Not only will this legislation protect our workers from having to join an organization against their will, it will also make New Mexico more competitive and improve our business climate,” said Rep. Andy Nunez, R-Hatch.

But opponents say it’s an attack on unions and won’t create jobs or save the state any money.

“These right-to-worker lovers … they talk all about choice, they talk all about freedom, they talk all about democracy,” said Miles Conway, an organizer with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 18 in New Mexico. “These right-to-work bills take away all of that.”

Unions and employers have the option to agree upon a “union security clause” and these proposals would only strip away that choice, Conway said.

The proposals come as the Republicans will take control of the New Mexico House for the first time in 60 years. Democrats still control the New Mexico Senate, and some have vowed to strongly oppose such measures.

Carter Bundy, political and legislative director for AFSCME, said union members will make their presence known during the upcoming session to let lawmakers know they are against the proposals.

“This is just an attempt by out-of-state corporate billionaires to tell New Mexicans how to run their state,” Bundy said.

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Follow Russell Contreras on twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras.

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