New Mexico Right to Work Laws

One of the most controversial topics in labor law today is so-called “right to work” laws. Right to work laws generally prohibit union membership to be a requirement for employment or forbid both unions and employers from denying a non-union employee a job just because he or she isn’t a part of the union. Each state can regulate labor and unions how they see fit, as long as any federal minimum requirements are met, such as the pay is at least as high as the federal minimum wage.

About half of the states have these laws, the other half and D.C. don’t, at least, not yet. New Mexico isn’t a “right to work” state, but Governor Susana Martinez wants to change that. Unbiased research shows there are pluses and minuses on both sides when these “right to work” laws are passed, so it’s unclear whether right to work legislation directly hurts or helps a state's economy.

Supporters of Right-to-Work Laws

People who want to pass these “right to work” laws believe that employees have the right to decide for themselves whether to join or pay dues to unions. Usually, the supporters of these laws are right-wing, “pro-business,” and fiscally conservative voters and legislators. Among the arguments for right to work laws in New Mexico are that states with right to work laws increased employment more than union states during the recent economic recovery and have a higher median income, when adjusted for cost-of-living.

Opponents of Right-to-Work Laws

Unions and many worker-rights organizations don’t support the so-called right-to-work laws. Many assume this is just unions who oppose these laws due to their obvious interest. It’s true that if people don’t have to join unions to keep a job, maybe many won’t. Some may hope the benefits that collective bargaining through unions got them will keep going, as will the unions, so they can “free-load” having the same benefits without paying dues.

Some research does suggest that states with unions have higher rates of pay and more benefits than states with right-to-work laws. Low-income worker rights activists point out that fewer businesses offer health and other fringe benefits in non-union private sector areas. While the economy and businesses can boom in right-to-work states, the gains typically go to the employers and the employees received fewer benefits.

Changing the Law in New Mexico

New Mexico doesn’t have any statutory provisions, constitutional amendments, or other laws currently that limit employers and unions from working together to require employees to join a union as a condition of a job. Individuals who want to change the law could organize with others, whether to enact a right-to-work law, a law prohibiting a right-to-work law from being adopted, or any other legal change. To change the law, you should speak with your local representatives, consider hiring a professional lobbyist, and possibly create a legal entity for the cause with the help of an experienced New Mexico non-profit organization lawyer.

Note: State laws changed constantly. It’s important to confirm the accuracy of these laws by either conducting your own legal research or asking a knowledgeable New Mexico employment law attorney.

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