Gov. Martinez Faces Fifth Suit in Supreme Court

By Claus Whiteacre

For the fifth time since she took office on Jan. 1, Governor Susana Martinez is being sued at the New Mexico Supreme Court.

This time, several unions are questioning the legality of her actions in firing all members of the state’s labor relations board.

Like the other four suits, this latest legal action revolves around the question of whether Gov. Martinez violated the state’s separation of powers by exceeding her authority as chief executive.

Unions Sue the Governor

In the suit, filed last week, the New Mexico Federation of Labor AFL-CIO and several of its affiliates challenge the legality of her dismissal of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board and its executive director.

In New Mexico, the Public Employee Labor Relations Board enforces public sector bargaining rights and handles disputes.

By law, the board consists of three members appointed by the governor: one recommended by labor, one recommended by public employers (effectively, the governor’s choice), and a third, jointly recommended by the other two appointees. The board itself then hires an executive director.

The Firings

Gov. Martinez fired executive director Pam Gentry on Feb. 5 and has interviewed prospective replacements — usurping the PELRB’s personnel decisions.

On March 1, Martinez removed board members John Boyd, recommended by labor; Martin Dominguez, recommended by public employers; and Duff Westbrook, who was jointly recommended.

State law guarantees unions the right to seek redress on behalf of wronged employees, but the removal of the labor board and its executive director means they have nowhere to go, union lawyers have said. Any negotiations, including collective bargaining, are also on hold.

In a statement last week, NMFL AFL-CIO president Christine Trujillo said:

“Governor Susana Martinez exceeded her authority in firing the entire Public Labor Relations Board in violation of state law. Her agenda is no different from that of Republican Wisconsin Governor Walker…she, along with the Tea Party-controlled Republican Party across the United States are attempting to pick off the rights of American workers to collectively provide safe and equitable work environments.”

What’s Next

In the lawsuit, the unions are seeking an order directing the governor to reinstate or reappoint the current PELRB members (specifically members John Boyd and Duff Westbrook) to their positions on the board.

Additionally, the unions are seeking an order prohibiting the governor from interfering in the board’s decision to hire an executive director of the PELRB.

The Supreme Court has ordered Gov. Martinez to respond to the union’s lawsuit by April 1. The court has scheduled oral arguments in the case for April 13.

Sen. Bingaman Speaks to State Legislators about Federal Funding Challenges

Sen. Jeff Bingaman

By Claus Whiteacre

Legislative members convened in the House chambers today to listen to an address by U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman.

Notably absent were some Republican senators, who remained in the Senate chamber and held an impromptu mini-caucus as Sen. Bingaman spoke.

In his address to state legislators, New Mexico’s senior senator spoke of the similarities between the challenges facing the New Mexico legislature and Congress in Washington D.C.

“New Mexico relies on both government and the private sector to create jobs.” said Bingaman.

Bingaman went on to list a large number of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects and the associated federal funds that have flowed into the state over the last couple of years.

While that funding will no longer be available, Bingaman assured the audience that New Mexico will continue to receive large amounts of
federal dollars, including money for the national laboratories to use to modernize the nuclear arsenal and comply with the new START treat and  funds for the Airforce Advanced Research Lab to develop “plug and deploy” miniature satellites.

The challenge will be to make sure that the work on energy research continues at the labs and does not get overshadowed by the lab’s new responsibilities, he said.

While most states are looking at losing military funding in the coming years, Bingaman said that New Mexico should see a steady and
continuing increase.

Teach-in on Racism Allows Youth to Pose Tough Questions to School Board Candidates

By Anthony Fleg

As the room got quiet, the high-school student asked with confidence, “Does Albuquerque Public Schools have an anti-racism policy and if so, are you aware of it?”

Many of the professionals seated at the front, all running for the upcoming Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) school board election on February 1st, appeared unprepared for such a question.

This was the energy on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday when over one-hundred people gathered at University of New Mexico’s Law School for the “Teach-in and Candidates Forum” hosted by the Critical Race Theory (CRT) Working Group.

Youth from local high schools, UNM students, staff, and faculty and community members gathered to enhance their understanding of racism and CRT, and then to use the “teach-in” to inform a school board candidates forum.

The program will be broadcast on KUNM’s Youth radio this Sunday from 7-8pm.

Continue reading

MLK Today, Legislature Tomorrow

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

On the eve of the 2011 legislative session in Santa Fe, the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday gives us a moment of pause, a moment to reflect as New Mexicans about what we hope to see come out of the two-month session, and how we will individually and collectively affect the process. Using some thoughts from Dr. King’s vast repertoire of proverbial wisdom, I hope that you will find inspiration today to fuel your service and advocacy tomorrow and beyond.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – MLK

I often hear friends and colleagues lament that “politics is just not for me,” in the same way they might discuss foods and movies they dislike. The important distinction is that our political system does affect all of us. It can protect our natural resources and sacred places, or it can do just the opposite. It will determine over the next sixty days whether the budgets of our schools and social programs are slashed, or whether we instead decide to go after un-tapped revenue from corporations to solve our state’s deficit.

These are not small, insignificant decisions. We will all live with the effects, good or bad, from decisions over the next two months. Get involved! If you are one of those likely to shrug off politics, my first, simple suggestions would be to check out the very user-friendly NM legislative website where you find your legislators, look up specific bills, and even watch proceedings from the Roundhouse and then to go up to Santa Fe and see the legislative process for yourself. Those who do see quickly that it is not the scary world they had imagined, and that in fact, all of us can make more of an impact than we think.

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. ” – MLK

Continue reading

Native Youth Lead The Way At Local Health Conference

Youth presenters at the AAIP meeting. Back row (L to R): Leon Paquin, Nick Felipe, Emmit Yepa, Mark Panana. Front row: Tiffany Faustine, Leroy Paisano, Lindsey Toya and Tianie Toya

A Clearly Guest Post by Anthony Fleg

SANTA ANA PUEBLO, NM – A week before the school year began, a group of American Indian youth in New Mexico were not only working hard, they were teaching the class!

Earlier this month, the 39th annual conference of the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP) featured nationally known speakers, including Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, the current director of Indian Health Services.

Alongside such speakers were three groups of local youth presenting on their efforts to create healthier, more sustainable and empowered communities.

The Walatowa (Jemez) Green Stars talked about their activism to create a full-scale recycling program in their community, with group member Lindsey Toya pointing out that “we know that our trash will be here for the generations to come, and it is our job to teach the elders in our community as they have taught us.”

Continue reading