Union Time on the Taxpayer Dime Ends for One Albuquerque Union
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The city of Albuquerque will no longer subsidize the operations of at least one public sector union. The new contract with the union representing planners, mid-level managers and other members of AFSCME 3022 no longer permits employees to receive paid leave to conduct union business. From now on, union representatives must use their own vacation and comp time or draw on a pool of vacation hours donated by their fellow union members.
Upon taking office, Mayor Richard J. Berry announced that he would not continue the practice inherited from his predecessor, Marty Chavez, of paying city employees to be union officers. Chavez’ contracts has expired, but by court order they have continued in effect pending renegotiation. The new contract with the managers bargaining unit is the first collective bargaining agreement to achieve Berry’s stated goal.
The prior contract with the management unit provided 16 hours of paid leave per week for the union’s president or designee “to facilitate positive labor-management relations between the [city] and employees represented by the Union and to resolve issues at the lowest possible level.” The contract also provided paid leave for attending pre-determination and grievance hearings and certain Labor or Personnel Board meetings.
Under the new contract, union officers may conduct union activities during their shift but must take vacation time instead of paid administrative leave. Paid leave will not be provided for general union duties, attending hearings and meetings or participating in negotiations with the city. Vacation leave must be used for those activities. The city will allow each member of the bargaining unit to donate a half hour of their leave to create a bank of hours that can be drawn upon to cover union work. This arrangement reduces the city’s labor costs by substituting vacation pay for paid leave. Union officers may also draw down their own accrued vacation and comp time to perform union duties during the work day.
The new contract provides employees with the equivalent of a 1 percent pay raise and eliminates furlough days imposed to forestall pay cuts.
A copy of the new contract is available at this link. The provisions dealing with union activities during the work day may be found in sections 1.3.3, 1.3.4, 1.3.5, 1.3.6, and 1.3.8.
“Whether or not this sets a standard for other contracts is yet to be seen,” says Vince Yermal, Director of Albuquerque’s Human Resources Department.
New Mexico Watchdog has been running a series of stories this summer delving into the practice of local governments paying their employees to conduct union business. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. We expect one more report in that series that will survey the extent of this practice throughout New Mexico. The series to this point has focused primarily on Albuquerque and Santa Fe which have contracts with the most generous provisions for subsidizing union operations. Our series has examined the costs and legality of the practice and the practical problems cities face in managing employees they are effectively paying to work against the cities’ interests.