Santa Fe union contract rule on brink of losing support

Santa Fe union contract rule on brink of losing support

New Mexico Business Weekly by Damon Scott, Editorial Researcher

Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012, 6:19am MDT

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Editorial Researcher- New Mexico Business Weekly
A majority of the Santa Fe City Council may be close to scrapping a new “community workforce agreement” ordinance that continues to generate controversy.

According to a report in the Albuquerque Journal, Councilors Patti Bushee and Bill Dimas said this week they support a resolution to delay CWA projects until theUniversity of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research can study the potential economic impact of it.

At an Oct. 22 finance committee meeting, both said they back a measure to repeal the ordinance entirely, the report said.

The ordinance requires union membership, wages and working conditions on city building projects.

Contractors have been complaining that the ordinance will drive up costs for city projects and a city report has estimated it would add up to $5 million to construction costs in the next three to five years.

Read the full report here.

Teachers union files grievance over pilot program

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — A teachers union has filed a grievance against the Central Consolidated School District in hopes of backing out of a statewide teacher and principal evaluation pilot program.

The Farmington Daily Times reports ( that the Central Consolidated Education Association believes the district didn’t consult with the union prior to agreeing to participate in a program that began this fall and enables schools to partially evaluate teachers and principals based on student performances on standardized tests.

District Superintendent Don Levinski says the state director of the National Education Association didn’t feel school districts had to consult with local teacher unions.

Levinski says teachers will have an opportunity to give input and that the district’s participation might make it more eligible for grant funding.


via Teachers union files grievance over pilot program.

CCSD teacher union pushes back on evaluation program – Farmington Daily Times

SHIPROCK — The Central Consolidated Education Association filed a grievance against its own district last month with hopes of backing out of a statewide teacher and principal evaluation pilot program.

The district, in July, volunteered to take part in the pilot program, along with the Aztec, Bernalillo, Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences districts.

The program, which began in this fall, enables the 55 schools involved to partially evaluate teachers and principals based on student performances on standardized tests.

CCEA believes that the district did not appropriately confer with the organization prior to agreeing to participation. In effect, CCEA filed a grievance with the superintendent, though the superintendent denied the grievance shortly thereafter.

In a letter to district staff, CCSD Superintendent Don Levinski followed up with a letter, which stated that the state director of the National Education Association said school districts don’t have to confer with local teacher unions.

“All of our teachers and principals will have the opportunity to give input,” wrote CCSD Superintendent Don Levinski in a letter to district staff. “We can complain about the evaluation system philosophically and get it rammed down our throats, or we could go through the process and express what we liked and disliked.”

Levinski added that the district’s participation might make it more eligible for grant funding. Additionally, the training for the program is free,

he said.

“This sounded like a no-brainer to me,” Levinski wrote.

Still discontent, the district now has filed a grievance citing the Public Employees Bargaining Act and the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the district board of education.

Neither has been discussed yet during a general meeting, leading CCEA to proceed with a complaint to the New Mexico Labor Board.

The state NEA, on the other hand., has been nothing short of supportive of the pilot program – though one former teacher in Albuquerque is taking the program to court, according to New Mexico Public Education Department Spokesman Larry Behrens.

“No teacher organizations have expressed discontent over the pilot program,” said Behrens.

State NEA Director Charles Bowyer even co-authored a supportive editorial in the Albuquerque Journal with New Mexico Secretary of Education-Designate Hanna Skandera in September.

“What about the teacher who inspires greatness in our children? Shouldn’t they be acknowledged? What about the teacher who, though struggling can become exemplary with the right help and professional development?” the pair wrote.

The CCEA is hoping for a prompt response from the New Mexico Labor Board, perhaps giving it a chance to discuss the program further.

via CCSD teacher union pushes back on evaluation program – Farmington Daily Times.

Union Time on the Taxpayer Dime Ends for One Albuquerque Union

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.

via Union Time on the Taxpayer Dime Ends for One Albuquerque Union.

ABQJournal Online » Teachers Union Contract Approved

he Albuquerque Public Schools board narrowly ratified a teachers union contract Wednesday night, after a lengthy discussion that left the board still at an impasse as to whether and how the board can change district policy in ways that conflict with a union contract.

The issue centers around language in the contract that says teachers who are also state legislators can receive their salaries while serving in Santa Fe. That language was left in the contract, even though the board voted in May to disallow such pay.

Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein said the board had acted in bad faith by taking a public vote on the issue before bringing it to the bargaining table. She said such a vote violated the procedures APS and the union have long followed.

“What happens when a public vote is taken on a contract provision, is it violates that process that we have both agreed to. So instead of having an honest conversation at the table and focusing on problem solving and each other’s interests, we become positional, and we’re at odds,” Bernstein said. “It also opens me up, as a union leader, to a precedent that I cannot allow. And that precedent is that at any given time, if any board wants to take a right away that we have mutually agreed upon, they can vote on it and dictate what happens during negotiations.”

APS Superintendent Winston Brooks has said he signed off on the contract, despite the legislative pay issue, because it will not affect anyone this year. Of APS’ three employee-legislators, one is not running for re-election, one has already said he will decline pay for time in Santa Fe, and one is an administrator and therefore not covered by the contract.

Board member Martin Esquivel, who voted against the contract, argued that he believes the union’s position undercuts the board’s ability to debate issues in the open and set public policy.

“I think this issue of having to run a policy issue by the union before an action is taken really limits our ability as policy makers,” Esquivel said. He also said he believes the union’s position encourages the board to violate the New Mexico Open Meetings Act.

Esquivel’s position, which he laid out using PowerPoint slides that included a copy of the Open Meetings Act, is that the board must make policy in the open, not by reaching a private consensus and then directing the administration to negotiate based on that consensus. He said without a public vote, he believes the board is left without a legal way to communicate its wishes to the administration.

“How, exactly, is management supposed to know what the position of the board is, without actually taking a vote on that particular issue?” Esquivel said. “I just don’t understand. Are they supposed to read the minds of the seven board members and say, ‘We’ve got four votes, we’ve got five votes?’ ”

Bernstein contended that the Open Meetings Act allows the board to meet in closed session to discuss negotiating strategies and provide guidance to the administration before bargaining begins, and they could discuss such issues in those meetings.

Esquivel countered that those sessions are meant for setting negotiation strategies, not for making policy, and that those things are distinct. The back-and-forth between Esquivel and Bernstein got testy at one point, prompting board president Paula Maes to cut in and suggest the discussion remain focused on the contract at hand.

The board is set to discuss the issues Esquivel raised at a future policy committee meeting.

Joining Esquivel in his dissent were board members Kathy Korte and David Robbins.

The contract was ratified with “yes” votes from board members Paula Maes, Analee Maestas, Lorenzo Garcia and David Peercy.

Korte and Robbins both said they agreed with the procedural issues Esquivel raised. Korte has also been vocal about concerns that the contract does not have good mechanisms for assisting and potentially firing ineffective teachers.

Robbins said he believes the union had plenty of notice that the board might act on the issue of legislator pay, and could not have been blindsided by the vote in May.

“This hit the news in late October, early November, this issue of pay for legislators,” Robbins said. “The public was outraged. They expressed their outrage in December, January, February, my email and my correspondence was running 90 percent saying ‘You better change this policy.’”

He said that if the board doesn’t change the legislator pay policy, they may face a board after the next school board election that takes even stronger stances on union issues.

“I think the union runs the risk of losing the support of the public,” Robbins said.

The approved contract does not include any raises for teachers, although it does return a paid training day that had been removed from the contract for the past two years. The board also unanimously approved contracts for its clerical union, its educational assistant union, and its maintenance and operations union.

via ABQJournal Online » Teachers Union Contract Approved.

Motives questioned in Taos County jail firings – The Taos News: News

In the latest changes to rock Taos County administration, the county last Friday (Aug. 3) fired detention administrator William Córdova and security chief Mary Mylet.

Mylet was escorted to her office to clear out her things, while Córdova was served with a termination letter at his parents’ home in El Prado.

The firings are the latest since the commission fired county manager Jacob Caldwell July 10.

“It’s going to be a long few months until January,” Mylet said in a phone interview. “Once Mr. Caldwell left, there have been these walls building up and it’s caused a lot of tension. I think morale is only going to get worse.”

Both Mylet and Córdova confirmed that the county listed its reasons as low morale and contraband getting into the jail. But Córdova says the firings are politically motivated and come after a third-party sexual harassment grievance he filed against a county commissioner.

A press release issued from Taos County administration shortly after 3 p.m. Friday said that “the Interim County Manager has appointed Taos County Sheriff Miguel Romero and Undersheriff Edwardo Romero as co-chiefs of Security for the Taos County Adult Detention Center.”

Ed Romero told The Taos News that the office would be “overseeing the operations” of the jail, but they were “not taking full control.”

“There will be some changes. I don’t know what yet, but everyone has some ideas,” Ed Romero said.  read more…

via Motives questioned in Taos County jail firings – The Taos News: News.

CCSD approves union contract – Farmington Daily Times

KIRTLAND – Bus drivers working in the Central Consolidated School District stood to receive a $500 bonus for perfect attendance this coming school year under the final draft of a collective bargaining agreement between the district and its unions.

That language was removed Tuesday before the governing board approved the master contract at its regular school board meeting. The board voted 4-1 in favor of the contract, which spells out salary schedules and other agreements between the district and its two employee unions.

The approved draft does not include bonuses for bus drivers.

“I have a hard time voting for something that’s illegal,” board member Randy Manning said during the Tuesday meeting.

The district cannot legally offer bonuses to employees for services not rendered because they are paid with public money.

“There’s nothing they have to do but show up to work,” Manning said of the bus drivers.

The proposed bonuses were presented about 18 months after the district offered $1,000 stipends to all employees, at a total cost of about $1 million. In exchange for the stipends, employees were required to attend a short inservice meeting.

The Attorney General’s Office still is considering whether those stipends were an illegal use of public money.

Manning on Tuesday argued that while the Attorney General’s Office still is debating the legality of the last round of bonuses, the district would be ill-advised to approve another set. Manning cast the sole

vote against the agreement, though the bus driver bonuses were stricken from the contract before it went for a final vote.

Phil Kasper, human resources director for the district, told the board the bonuses were an incentive to keep bus drivers from taking absences.

“It was not our intention to be a bonus, but rather an incentive,” Kasper said. “We wanted to give a payment incentive to all drivers and recognize the service of not taking absences. …The provision was so drivers understood that the first day’s absence would cost them far more than a day’s pay.”

The district’s attorney, Arthur Melendres, advised the board to strike the bonuses from the contract.

“You must require something additional to driving a bus,” he said.

Manning also raised concerns about a revised salary schedule that was included in the agreement. The district plans to change the way it rewards teachers for years served and education received.

For example, included in the agreement is language that cuts pay incentives for teachers with the highest education levels and years in the classroom while boosting pay for younger teachers.

The goal, Kasper said, was to “start evening things out.”

“We had employees who were grossly overpaid and employees who were grossly underpaid,” he said. “All employees will be on a salary schedule that is transparent and makes sense. There are significant discrepancies” in how people are paid.

The salary schedule, according to Superintendent Don Levinski, was revised to allow the district to offer teacher wages that are competitive with other area districts.

“It gives us stability for a number of years,” Levinski said Tuesday. “It makes CCSD competitive.”

According to Kasper, 89 percent of union members voted in favor of the agreement.

Also on Tuesday, the board voted unanimously in favor of selling $8 million in bonds and calling $7.7 million in existing bonds. By calling bonds issued 10 years ago, the district can refinance and save taxpayers an estimated $300,000 in interest, Melendres said.

“All taxpayers will benefit,” he said. “This is a pretty significant opportunity to benefit the community as a whole.”

The additional $8 million in bonds will be sold July 17 and approved at the board meeting that evening. The funds will be used to renovate the three Shiprock elementary schools and begin work on a new school in Naschitti.

via CCSD approves union contract – Farmington Daily Times.