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NM Court Sides with Building Trades, Says Martinez Admin Has Been Illegally Setting Wage Rates

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez

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On Monday, the New Mexico Supreme Court sided with a group of unions ruling that state labor officials must change the way they set the prevailing wage and fringe benefits for publicly funded projects.  In her 15-page opinion, Justice Petra Jimenez Maes argued that the Martinez administration has a duty to set rates based on collective bargaining agreements rather than wage surveys.  The failure to do so has forced workers to earn between 5 and 30 percent less than they would have had the law been followed. 

“The director’s delay in setting new rates and his failure to comply with the act is inexcusable,” Justice Maes wrote.

The state labor department has 30 days to set new rates in accordance with the 2009 law.  In 2011, the New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council first brought forward concerns about the prevailing wage.  At the time, state officials told them that they would set new rates in four to five months, a promise they never kept.

The ruling does not grant back wages to workers affected by the five-year flub. Shane Youtz, an Albuquerque attorney who represented the unions, explained to The Santa Fe New Mexican that workers across the state will be getting a raise in the next month:

“It’s a ton of money.  All told, New Mexico’s economy probably lost tens of millions of dollars as a result of the governor’s refusal to basically do what the law required her to do.

The new rates, which will be set by the labor department this month, will be in effect for construction workers working on projects funded by a recently passed $295 million infrastructure bill.


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