- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Contract talks with state employee unions are at an impasse because New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez wants the state to stop collecting union dues through withdrawals from employees’ paychecks, the governor said.

The Republican governor raised the issue this week at a real estate luncheon in Albuquerque while criticizing teachers unions for opposing her administration’s policy initiatives, the Albuquerque Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1gOW7Do).

Teachers’ union dues are withdrawn under contract provisions negotiated at the local level, but Martinez is pressing for an end to dues withdrawals for state employee unions.

“The state collects them (dues) for the unions, and then we cut a check to the unions who then use that money against reform,” Martinez told business leaders.

According to Martinez, the unions use the dues money to attack her administration.

At issue is the practice of withdrawing dues of about $13 per paycheck from workers who do not participate in the union but are represented by the union in contract negotiations, said Nivia Thames, deputy director of the State Personnel Office.

Those payments, known as “fair share” contributions to the union, are withdrawn with the employees’ consent.

“The state is opposed to this practice and has not included ‘fair share’ in its last, best offers to (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) and (Communication Workers of America),” Thames said in a statement. “We made this decision because of the unfair effect ‘fair share’ has on non-union employees (who) have complained that they do not want to pay money to the unions when they are not members and they are not receiving any benefit.”

But a spokesman Miles Conway of AFSCME calls Martinez’s desire to end dues withdrawals a “declaration of war.” He said public employees will actively fight that cut through the arbitration process.

“There’s no question she’s coming to cut the unions off at the knees, but we didn’t know she was going for the head,” he said.

The current contracts expired in 2011, but provisions allowed the contracts to roll over until new ones were negotiated.

Republican leaders in the state House during this year’s legislative session attempted to amend unrelated legislation to include a statutory ban on paycheck withdrawals of union fees, but that effort was defeated by a Democratic majority in the chamber.

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