Last April, the NM Court of Appeals ruled in favor of RJ Berry, Rob Perry, and the city of Albuquerque in a case that the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) had originally won in District Court. AFSCME appealed the decision to the state’s highest court, the NM Supreme Court which granted the appeal. On August 12, the NMSC heard oral arguments from both sides. Just days ago, the NMSC issued a finding saying that while they originally agreed to hear the case, they reversed that decision as being “improvident” and upheld the appeals court decision in favor of Berry and Perry.
At issue was whether or not RJ Berry, Rob Perry, and the City of Albuquerque had to honor existing union contracts that had come to the end of their contracted terms and expired. AFSCME argued that the city had to because of the “Evergreen” provision in state law. The City argued it didn’t because it had a city law that predated the state law and was thus grandfathered in. The appeals court agreed with the city.
What this means?
The implications of this ruling cannot be overstated or exaggerated: The city is no longer bound to any elements of preexisting contracts and can treat any group of employees as it wants to. Essentially all city employees that were under contracts that have since lapsed are now totally exposed to whatever RJ Berry and Rob Perry want to do. All employees are essentially “at will” employees.
Who does this affect?
FIRST: All city employees who are not under contracts that have not lapsed. At the very least this includes firefighters, police officers, and all clerical/admin employees.
SECOND: The family and dependents of all those immediately affected.
THIRD: The citizens of Albuquerque.
With the NMSC confirming the appeals court decision, everything else is on the table. Wages, work schedules, medical benefits, seniority, promotion, specialized units, leave….you name it, everything is gone and is subject to negotiation. Many of our Eyes expressed concern about their retirement. The city can unilaterally choose NOT to make any contribution to PERA. Folks expressed concern regarding their benefits, the city can unilaterally withdraw contributions to your health, dental, or vision plans. The city can unilaterally remove overtime benefits. Unless there is a state law prohibiting them, the city can do whatever they want as they are no longer bound by any contracts.
City CAO Rob Perry recently said there is no negotiating with the unions because “all they can do is go up.” With this ruling, Rob Perry got what he wanted because now, all the employees are starting over from scratch as all terms are on the table. And as we’ve seen since RJ Berry took office, not only has he not renewed any contracts with his employees, he has openly violated provisions of them. As an effected employee your rights and protections have all but been destroyed. The city does not HAVE to follow this path, but under Berry and Perry they have chosen this path against you. This has been by intentional and design. While Perry reaps in raise after raise and makes over $70/per hour, regular workers have realized reduced wages and benefits. This is nothing short of a war against the regular worker.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
To stop what is coming, people must act. The time for negotiations is over. To avoid the wholesale destruction of your rights, benefits, and wages you have to band together and act. Union leaders need to enlist the support of their fellow private sector unions from Teamsters, Carpenters, Postal, and all the dozens of others and take to the streets. This city is notoriously weak when it comes to formal protest, but if a couple of dozen women can gather around the federal court house dressed in black once a month you can band together and flood civic plaza. Be loud, proud, and visible. Public employees have a duty to provide quality service to the citizens they serve and if your morale is so low you don’t even care about yourself, then think of the citizens who depend on your services.
As we at the Eye have shown during this election cycle, everything that comes out of Berry’s mouth has been a lie. From the “retirement” of APD’s Ray Schultz to the state of Albuquerque’s economy to the narrow group of people who support Berry with their cash, we have shown with fact after irrefutable fact that what Berry says is entirely different than what is true.
Next Tuesday is the mayoral election day. To keep from happening which will be nothing short of total destruction of collective bargaining, all affected employees need to inform the public and get out with their friends and family and vote for Heh or Dinelli.
IF YOU FEAR ACTING FOR YOURSELF, THEN DO NOT BE SURPRISED IF
SOMEBODY ACTS AGAINST YOU.
“FIRST SAY TO YOURSELF WHAT YOU WOULD BE; AND THEN DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO.”
ONLY YOU CAN KEEP BERRY FROM BEING REELECTED.