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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CWA: Governor Susana Martinez’s Dangerous New Agenda Raising Red Flags

Cuidado! The Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 7076 in Santa Fe released the following statement today strongly warning that the agenda of Governor Susana Martinez increasingly appears to be headed towards imposing union-busting measures on government workers that are even worse than those we've seen in other states. And her misguided agenda, pumped by the infamous Koch brothers via ALEC, could also lead to a system of growing cronyism and political patronage. A must-read column:

Is New Mexico the latest battleground for ideologically-motivated union-busting?

In an apparent egregious political miscalculation (and despite surefire warning signs coming out of Wisconsin and Ohio) New Mexico appears next in the line of states battling over the voice of middle-class state workers. At the behest of Governor Susana Martinez, New Mexico appears dangerously close to forcing through a power-grabbing contract with its employees — a contract that, if approved, is likely to have serious consequences for the rise of public corruption and cronyism in the state. This most recent case of government overreach has left political observers and New Mexicans alike wondering whether the state will play host to the next showdown over basic workers’ rights.

A System of Cronyism and Political Patronage: New Mexico workers are not unfamiliar with the brand of government overreach Susana Martinez has proposed in the most recent round of negotiations. State employees are already restricted in what they are allowed to negotiate for — they’re currently prohibited from bargaining for pensions; and have in the past been forced to take furlough days, pay cuts, and heavier workloads with little say in the process.

Martinez’s demands go even further, and if implemented, have dangerous implications for the escalation of corruption and cronyism in New Mexico State Government.  Among her proposals:

  • Sick Days: Workers will be prohibited from using sick days to care for an ailing spouse or child.
  • Flex scheduling: a system that allows workers to rearrange schedules or request make up hours in case of an emergency — will be abolished.
  • Annual Reviews: A total elimination of annual performance evaluations. Under Gov. Martinez’s proposals, evaluations will take place only when a supervisor chooses to conduct them. The right of workers to challenge negative performance evaluations — a favorite tool of managers wishing to engage in retaliatory action against workers — will also be eliminated.
  • Outsourcing: The Governor has requested, through her contract proposal, free reign to outsource as many state jobs as possible to the private sector, allowing her to reward her largest private sector contributors with lucrative public contracts. 

Not even Gov. Walker in Wisconsin, whose anti-union policies drew hundreds of thousands of protestors to the state capitol for weeks, or Ohio’s Governor Kasich, who will face a popular referendum on his anti-collective bargaining in November, attempted to remove so much from state workers. Gov. Martinez’s proposals translate into a near-feudal public employment system, where upper-level managers possess exclusive, un-checked control over workload, performance reviews, discipline and preferential treatment.

Mirroring Wisconsin and Ohio: These days adopting or copying the anti-worker policies of Governors Walker and Kasich in Wisconsin and Ohio would strike any keen political observer as foolish and politically risky — no matter how dire a particular state’s economic projection. This summer both Governors have found themselves and their parties in real danger of losing significant political support after forcing anti-collective bargaining, pension-slashing legislation through their state’s legislatures.  Their critical mistakes — leading to the loss of two Republican seats in the Wisconsin state senate and the potential renegotiation of SB 5, the anti-collective bargaining law Kasich carefully shepherded through the state legislature — now appear as obvious warning signs; helpful indications of what not to do as a state leader.

Gov. Martinez seems to have missed that memo. Her administration is currently attempting to negotiate a new contract with the state’s employees that far “out-Walkers” what the Wisconsin Governor himself shepherded through the state’s legislature. Policies like the ones she’s proposing have no doubt been deemed politically toxic by governors of other states, but for some reason the Governor seems intent on fully silencing the voices of the state’s workers. 

Unseemly Influences: A number of outside forces have helped to shape Martinez’s new direction.  During the 2010 campaign cycle, the infamous Koch brothers — notorious for their close ties to ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) and for their principled donations to ideologically extreme right-wing Governors, causes and national-level elected officials — contributed $10,000 to the Martinez campaign. Martinez also received $1.3 million from the Republican Governor’s Association, who themselves took over $1 million from the Koch brothers.

But it’s not just Martinez’s campaign contributions that make for obvious ties between her administration and the outside right-wing groups most known for tampering with state legislative activity. State political blog Clearly New Mexico reported earlier this year that “error-ridden language from a bill crafted by the billionaire Koch Brothers and served up as a template for a number of states” had recently surfaced in the New Mexico state Legislature. The legislation — a near replica of one of ALEC’s model bills, provided to state legislators for a small membership fee — would have pulled the state out of the Western Climate Initiative (a regional pact formed in 2007 to reduce the effects of climate change).

In an odd and unlikely coincidence, withdrawing from the WCI also happens to be listed as one of the top recommendations of the Governor’s Small Business-Friendly Task Force, which appears to recommend Martinez “revise or rescind virtually every pending environmental” regulation “and a number of existing ones.” [Clearly New Mexico, March 17, 2011]

Possible VP Impact: Gov. Martinez’s high approval rating and sound victory over Democrat Diane Denish in her 2010 race for Governor has led members of both the state and national media to consider her a top contender for the Republican Vice-Presidential Nomination. However, if Wisconsin and Ohio serve as any indication, Martinez’s anti-worker proposals have the potential to severely damage her image and thus impact her chances of receiving the nomination. Both Walker and Kasich watched their popularity plummet after instituting union-busting legislation and now face nasty uphill political battles months after passing their respective bills.  

Such ideologically extreme anti-worker proposals have the potential to define Gov. Martinez to a broad swath of people to whom she may be unfamiliar — in a way that has the potential to be unfortunately damaging in 2012. Hard talk around unions may be what works in a GOP primary and might prove popular with the GOP’s ideologically extreme base  — but what’s important for the general election and the vice-presidential nod is another thing altogether. 

September 13, 2011 at 04:40 PM in Jobs, Labor, Right Wing, Susana Martinez | Permalink