New Mexico Gov. Martinez Revives Right-to-Work Push

Published February 8, 2016

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is attempting, for the second time, to bring right-to-work (RTW) reform to her state.

In 2015, the measure passed the Republican-led state House of Representatives, but it was later rejected, due in part to strong union opposition, by the Democrat-led state Senate.

Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, says right-to-work could cause the kind of economic boost the state needs.

“New Mexico desperately needs something to jumpstart its economy,” Gessing said. “It has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, and [it] has relied for too long on federal spending. Right-to-work would be a great first step towards growing New Mexico’s private-sector economy.”

Voting with Their Feet

“All of New Mexico’s neighbors, with the exception of Colorado, have right-to-work laws on the books,” Gessing added. “Despite sunny weather and its location in the American Southwest, New Mexico has been losing population in recent years. Texas, with its right-to-work law and lack of income taxes, has been a particularly attractive state for New Mexicans to relocate [to].”

Martinez’ push to make New Mexico friendlier to workers and businesses comes at a time when right-to-work reform has become a national issue. Opening arguments in a case brought by a group of California teachers challenging the constitutionality of automatically deducting union fees from government teachers’ paychecks were presented before the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2015.

If SCOTUS rules in favor of the lead plaintiff, Rebecca Friedrichs, individual teachers would be allowed to decide whether or not to contribute to teachers unions. Currently, many public school teachers are required to contribute funds to a teachers union as a condition of employment.

‘A Huge Case’

Richard Vedder, a professor of economics at Ohio University, says the case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, could have implications for workers all over the nation, in every profession.

“I think [Friedrichs is] a huge case,” Vedder said. “I think there is a decent chance the plaintiffs might win this one. And if they do, it’s just another nail in the coffin of the labor unions in the United States. If the California decision goes this way, it will set a precedent and will lead to a significant challenge to public-sector unions across the country.”

‘Just Saying No’

Vedder says people in right-to-work states, such as Wisconsin, are taking advantage of their freedom to choose whether to associate with labor unions.

“We see in Wisconsin the enormous decline in union membership in the public sector after Gov. [Scott] Walker’s aggressive actions on right-to-work,” Vedder said. “I think people are voting with their feet to not be members of a union. They are just saying ‘no’ to unions.”

Tony Corvo ([email protected]) writes from Beavercreek, Ohio.