Teaching Profession

Collective Bargaining Gets New Life in New Mexico

By Lisa Fine Goldstein — March 19, 2003 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, fulfilling a campaign promise, signed a bill this month that restores collective bargaining rights to teachers and other public employees.

The law gives back the right to public employees, including about 30,000 school workers, to negotiate labor agreements with management. It also prohibits employee strikes or management lockouts.

“This law will benefit all of New Mexico’s children by giving a greater voice to the people who work with them closely every day,” said Reg Weaver, the president of the National Education Association. “It provides a great framework for public schools and education employees to reach agreements that will raise student achievement across the state.”

The law reinstates a state labor-relations board for public employees and the binding arbitration in the event of an impasse.

New Mexico lawmakers voted mostly on party lines, with the House version passing on a 40-24 vote, and the Senate voting 23-12 for the House bill. Democrats control both chambers.

The last time any state passed a collective bargaining law for public employees was also in New Mexico. The state’s previous law guaranteeing collective bargaining rights was passed in 1992 and expired in 1999 under a “sunset” provision. Then-Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican, vetoed several efforts to extend the law.

Even after the previous law had expired, several New Mexico school districts continued to engage voluntarily in collective bargaining with their employees.

A Campaign Promise

The new law takes effect July 1. It is a major victory for Gov. Richardson, a Democrat and a prominent former member of the Clinton administration, who promised during last fall’s campaign to restore collective bargaining for public employees.

“As we saw during 9/11, public employees courageously put their lives on the line for all of us,” Gov. Richardson said when he signed the bill on March 7, referring to the 2001 terrorist attacks. “Yet, even in New Mexico, we took our public employees for granted. Those days are gone.”

Mr. Richardson has also vowed to improve the salaries for New Mexico teachers by 6 percent next fiscal year. New Mexico ranked 44th in the nation in teacher pay in 2001-02, with an average salary of $36,440, according to a report by the NEA.

“We have thousands of educators who have tremendous responsibilities to teach our children,” the governor said. “All of those valued employees deserve a fair shake when it comes to negotiating salaries, working conditions, and other. aspects of the jobs they perform.”

In states without collective bargaining, teachers may face a greater chance for low morale and lower salaries, argues Daniel Kaufman, a spokesman for the NEA’s national headquarters in Washington. He said 34 states and the District of Columbia have collective bargaining rights for teachers.

“The bill goes a long way to improving the education environment in New Mexico,” said Charles Boyer, the government-relations director for the New Mexico branch of the NEA.

But opponents of the law say it will cost taxpayers. “You simply bargain against the taxpayers’ pockets and against the taxpayers’ wallet,” state Sen. Rod Adair, a Republican, told the Albuquerque Journal.

An official with a national charter school research and advocacy group said such laws do not provide incentives for teacher quality. The New Mexico law covers charter school teachers, too.

“Bad teachers can be protected; good teachers can be lost,” said Mary Kayne Heinze, a spokeswoman for the Center for Education Reform, based in Washington. “For good teachers, there’s no incentive for them to excel to become the best they can be,” she argued. “What teachers really need is merit pay, and to be evaluated on their individual contributions.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession What New Teachers Need
Ideas from the real world on making teachers' first years less overwhelming and more fulfilling.
5 min read
Illustration of a classroom diorama sitting on a student desk.
Illustration by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)
Teaching Profession Opinion This Year Almost Drove Me Out of Teaching. The Right Leader Made Me Stay
After seven years teaching and one class away from becoming an education specialist, I have seen the highs and lows of education leadership.
Samantha Richardson
4 min read
Illustration of woman sitting on a mountain top looking into the distant landscape.
iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Maryland Teacher Wins $1 Million Global Prize
Keishia Thorpe received the prize for her work teaching immigrant and refugee students and helping them attend college.
2 min read
This photo provided by the Varkey Foundation shows Keishia Thorpe. The Maryland high school English teacher, who has worked to open up college education for her students, has won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize. The Varkey Foundation announced Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, that Thorpe, who teaches at International High School at Langley Park in Prince George’s County in Maryland, was selected from more than 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries around the world.
Keishia Thorpe, who has worked to open up college education for her students, has won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize.
Varkey Foundation via AP
Teaching Profession Opinion Teachers Need Therapy. Their Schools Should Pay for It
You can’t have student mental well-being without investing in the adults around them, argues clinical psychologist Megan McCormick.
Megan McCormick
5 min read
Illustration of nurturing.
Laura Baker/Education Week and Ponomariova_Maria/iStock/Getty, DigitalVision Vectors