Rodolpho ‘Rudy’ Martinez: Thoughts on right-to-work legislation

As I watch this year’s legislative session, I am concerned with the misinformed claims made by Republican Governor Martinez that have made right-to-work/anti-worker legislation her top priority.  When I think of all the issues we face here in our state in building a healthy economy I am appalled that the Governor will be attacking our working families.

r_martinezWhen the governor says right-to-work (RTW) is one of several hurdles New Mexico faces in attempting to become more economically competitive with neighboring states she couldn’t be more wrong. Talent and the cost of doing business are more important when factoring whether or not a company will do business in New Mexico or anywhere else in the U.S. Businesses look to see what a state has to offer them and the families they will bring with them when they come. Businesses look at the labor market and how well the labor force is trained before committing to bringing their business to a site. There are some right-to-work states that actually have higher rates of union membership than non-right-to-work states. Site selector James Renzas, a principal at The RSH Group Inc. in California, stated, “…Kentucky will likely never be a right-to-work state, and they have been very successful in attracting automotive suppliers, call centers and financial services operations.”

The whole idea of right-to-work perpetuates misleading information that makes false claims against labor unions. When the Governor states, “It is fundamentally wrong to require membership (in a union) in order to get a job … or take money from the paychecks of our workers by force,” she forgets that federal labor laws have been in place to protect workers who don’t want to join a labor union. What she and other, right-to-work, supporters want to do is provide us with misleading alarmist information that demonizes labor unions.  In doing so they opens the doors for more tax loopholes for major corporate greed. Corporate greed that has working families struggling to get ahead within a system that is working against them. A system that sold us the belief that the richest of the population, the corporations running our country, would carry an economy that would work for all of us, but really only works for an elite portion of the population.

Labor unions have done and continue to demonstrate their importance in the workplace by providing: safe working conditions, enforced health and safety regulations, standard minimum wages, forty hour work weeks, overtime pay, paid vacations, pensions, healthcare, and equal pay for equal work. Unions are able to do this work to protect our workers and provide safe and ethical work environments because of collective bargaining agreements. Right-to work laws would do nothing to secure or create jobs to improve our economy. The aim for this type of legislation is to dismantle unionized workers who negotiate favorable contracts for workers; reducing their strength and financial standings.

The facts about RTW laws that are never mentioned by the Governor and other right-to-work supporters are:

–          These laws drive down wages for all workers, including non-union members, women, and people of color.

–          Workers in right-to-work states are less likely to have health insurance.

–          Right to work makes workplaces more dangerous

–          Right-to-work laws do not improve business conditions in states.

–          Right to work is not a deciding factor in where businesses locate.

–          High-tech companies that provide good-paying, American jobs favor states where unions have a strong  presence, because unions provide a high-skilled workforce and decrease turnover.

–          Communities lose jobs when wages are lowered by right to work.

–          Right to work does not improve the employment rate.

The message the Governor sends out to our working families is that they will be targeted and lied to yet again by this administration. Let’s stick to the real facts about right-to-work and other union busting legislation. And let us remember the safe workplace and wage benefits we have today are due to the diligence and sacrifice of our labor unions.

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Rudolpho “Rudy” Martinez is the former State Representative from New Mexico’s 39th District