Talon News - Good Local News



August 10, 2018

MANY CITIZENS CAME OUT TO SPEAK AND SHOW SUPPORT for both sides of anti union ordinance county commission Hearing 8.7.18 - PHOTO D. Albright, TALON

by David Edward Albright, TALON

One hundred seventy two local citizens signed the attendance sheet and filled the San Juan County Commission Chambers on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 to deal with the hotly-contested issue of a proposed 'Right to Work Ordinance Number 102'.

Sheriff Christensen, Under Sheriff Ferrari and deputies stood watch along either wall as Chairman Margaret McDaniel proclaimed after the 'Consent Agenda' and first item of 'New Business', "Ok, we come to the item that everyone is here for". County Attorney Doug Echols said, "The Commission wants to hear from people who want to speak, whether you're for or against the Ordinance, but what we would ask is that everybody be respectful of each other."

The first two speakers from opposing sides of the issue had ten minutes for an opening statement, the rest had three. Echols said 39 phone calls for the Ordinace and 11 against were received that day. Barry Dixon, business manager for Operating Engineers Local 593, representing about 200 miners at Navajo and San Juan Mines, said, "The problem I have with this Ordinance is that it goes for the unincorporated areas of the County. In the incorporated areas, the cities---unions and companies can negotiate a contract with a union security clause, but in the unincorporated areas it's going to be criminalized."

With the looming shutdown of PNM Power Plant, Westmoreland Cove in bankruptcy and collective bargaining agreements in limbo, Dixon said "the lenders are in control" and they'll order the contracts to be dissolved, which would affect medical and retirement benefits. He said the Ordinance was not written for local interests and "this is really nothing more than the right to work---and an attack on middle America---as sponsored by the Koch brothers". The first round of applause was heard. He told the Commission they "would be climbing on board with the national organization called the 'Right to Work Coalition'. He asked if there were any unionized companies present in favor of this Ordinance. No one spoke.

Gary Skiba, representing 350 San Juan Indivisible members, said they have "basically a progressive stance on many issues...and we are absolutely opposed" to this Ordinance. He received applause for stating, "there is absolutely zero evidence that right to work laws improve economic development". He asserted that right to work laws have been shown to cause a decline in wages by "an average of $1500 a year" and that corporations' and billionaires' "sole motive is to profit off these laws".

Carla Sonntag, President and Founder of the New Mexico Business Coalition, gave a presentation to explain her organization---started in 2009. Their stated purpose is "bold action for extraordinary results". They are a 501C4, a state-wide non-partisan association and are the state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturing "So right to work makes a big difference to us". "Right to work is a simple concept---it's giving an employee the freedom to choose---if they join a union and pay dues or not---that's it", she said. Also, it's needed because manufacturers prefer it. Fortner asked for facts of that. Sonntag referenced a dispute that Boeing had with their Union regarding an expansion goal. Boeing didn't consider New Mexico and selected one of the Carolinas---because it was a 'right to work' state.

Brent Yessin, a Florida-based attorney who consults with New Mexico Business Coalition and helped in Kentucky with 'right to work' efforts, spoke next. Yessin said regarding wage information, "In every single state that has passed 'right to work'...wages went up faster after 'right to work' passed...wages in Oklahoma went up $11,000 in a decade...so we know that good job growth is twice as great...in Indiana wages went up $1000. and they created 10,000 new jobs...so there's a long track record." Fortner asked if Arizona is 'right to work' and Yessin replied, "Yes, you're surrounded by 'right to work' states".

Fortner asked Dixon to return to the podium for a two-minute response to Mr. Yessin. Dixon said in those "thirteen states that increased their unions even after going 'right to work'---they had to because they treated their employees so lousy". "Unions are known for high-class, quality training programs to teach apprentices...to teach people to learn a trade...in right to work states---safety lacks!" he continued.

The Commissioners listened diligently and questioned many as they struggled to make a difficult decision. With one opposing vote from Wallace Charley, the 'Right to Work Ordinance' passed and is effect in San Juan County 30 days from August 8.

Part 2, in the next TALON, will cover public input from the meeting and details of Ordinance Number 102.


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