New Mexico Senate panel to vote on bill that prohibits requiring workers to join union

Associated Press

A New Mexico Senate panel was expected to vote Tuesday on a bill that prohibits requiring workers to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment.

The Public Affairs Committee was set to consider the measure that has drawn scores of people to the Capitol for hours of hearings.

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The bill also includes a 50-cent-per-hour minimum wage increase that would apply to the public and private sectors.

The measure was referred last week to three panels over the objection of Republicans, who were unsuccessful in forcing a hearing before the full Senate.

The Public Affairs Committee took testimony on the proposed legislation Sunday, when dozens of people packed its meeting.

The GOP-controlled House passed the legislation 37-30 last month. The Democratic leadership in the Senate has said it's united in stopping the bill.

Supporters say the measure would bring more businesses and much-needed jobs to New Mexico. Opponents counter that it will hurt workers by bringing down wages and undermining unions.

About 43,000 workers in the state were members of unions in 2014, or about 5.7 percent of the total workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A fiscal impact report on the bill is silent on the implications of becoming a so-called right-to-work state. Such reports are produced by the Legislative Finance Committee.

The Employment Development Department states that "its ability to recruit and retain businesses in New Mexico will depend on business costs within the state," according to the document.

New Mexico was ranked 47th for business in the nation in 2014 by Forbes, despite low labor costs that encourage economic development, the report says.

Wisconsin enacted a law Monday that prohibits requiring private-sector workers to pay union dues, striking another blow against organized labor four years after the state effectively ended collective bargaining for public-sector employees. In all, 25 states now have right-to-work laws.

A 2012 review by the Congressional Research Service found that unionization rates are lower, job growth higher and wages lower in right-to-work states.

But the review said it was impossible to determine if those outcomes were directly tied to right-to-work laws instead of other policies or preferences.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that individuals can opt-out of membership dues but a union can still collect fees for services such as negotiating the contract covering members and non-members.