Worker-Freedom Ordinance Approved in Otero County, New Mexico

Published May 15, 2018

Otero County, New Mexico commissioners approved an ordinance prohibiting businesses from requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

The ordinance, which took effect on April 12, is the second county right-to-work (RTW) law enacted in the state. Commissioners in neighboring Sandoval County approved a similar law in January of this year.

To date, 28 states and the territory of Guam have enacted worker-freedom laws. New Mexico is one of 22 states without such a law.

‘More Job Growth’

Richard Vedder, distinguished professor of economics emeritus at Ohio University and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says RTW policies are a proven success.

“The evidence is pretty clear that RTW jurisdictions have more vibrant job growth and have more economic growth than non-RTW areas,” Vedder said.

Expects Economic Revitalization

Otero County Commissioner Susan Flores (District 2), the sponsor of the ordinance, says bringing worker freedom to the county will help people get back to work, after years of declining fortunes.

“The right-to-work ordinance will provide a catalyst for new jobs and wage growth and level the playing field as we compete against Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and Oklahoma, which are all RTW states,” Flores said. “Consider the difference in El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico: since 2009, El Paso has seen employment growth of 13.3 percent, while Las Cruces has seen growth of 1.60 percent in that same time. Here at home, Otero County has lost 11 percent of its overall jobs since 2009.”

Vedder says the new ordinance will make the county more attractive to business owners looking to expand or relocate.

“The labor markets in that area are facing competition from within 100 miles, from very low-priced labor in Mexico, and in [neighboring] Texas they have the advantage of right-to-work laws,” Vedder said. “The institution of a right-to-work law in that area of New Mexico will have some positive advantages for the county.”

Question of Fairness

In addition to the economic benefits, RTW removes an unfair government mandate, Flores says.

“Workers are forced to pay 3 percent of their paycheck, on average, to unions by the government, which, in America, is not right,” Flores said. “No free person should be forced to pay a private organization for the right to work.

“Unions tell the public that they are forced into collective bargaining agreements, but they have always been able to negotiate members-only contracts and serve their union members without representing nonunion members,” Flores said. “This ordinance will support workers, not harm unions.”

Follow the Leader

Vedder says surrounding counties will want to pass RTW policies so they can compete with Otero County’s new ordinance.

“The lack of a right-to-work law is more damaging when there are right-to-work jurisdictions nearby,” Vedder said. “What that means is a business could easily move just a few miles from a non-right-to-work state to a right-to-work state and reduce the hassles associated with unionization.”

Flores says she proposed the ordinance because she wanted Otero County to lead the way instead of being left behind.

“The data is clear that the economic growth in recent years is happening largely in RTW states, and we can benefit from that success,” Flores said.