Friday, May 11, 2007

union talk

the gov touted his pro-union career to firefighters (in New Hampshire at their convention; the article I'm linking to conveniently seems to be missing the location).
Richardson, of course, hasn't been entirely popular with unions. Certainly the Corrections unions, here, have had plenty of gripes. I can't find the links, but here is some of our reporting on Richardson's problems with the Corrections unions.
All of these stories are copyrighted by The Santa Fe Reporter.

June 15, 2005, published in The Santa Fe Reporter
Bad Faith?
Union officials decry governor’s contract response.
By Dan Frosch
After nearly two years of negotiations, New Mexico’s State, County and City employees were certain they’d emerged less bloodied than Gov. Bill Richardson. After all, they had won most of their demands for better working conditions through an independent arbitration agreed to by both parties.
They were wrong.
Earlier this month, Richardson’s office sent a letter to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in Washington, DC, citing several problems with three points that had been decided in the union’s favor. Those issues included a 2.5 percent incremental salary increase, extra personal days and more bereavement days.
Leaders of New Mexico’s Council 18 Union—which represents 13,000 workers throughout the state and is part of AFSCME—tell SFR they were shocked by news of the letter. Union officials say they believed the governor was bound by the arbitration to which he’d agreed.
“I’m really surprised. I didn’t think he could do this,” Zach Garcia, vice president of the State Correctional Workers’ Union, Local 3422, and a member of the Council 18 negotiating team, says.
“We had faith in the governor,” Arcy Baca, president of Local 477, which includes all State workers in the Santa Fe area except corrections workers, adds.
The arbitration followed initial negotiations on a new contract in 2003 in which union and State officials reached an impasse on a number of key issues related to salaries, personal leave, staffing, scheduling and overtime.
In February of this year, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services decided the union’s final proposal—which entailed pay raises, more bereavement days, better overtime compensation and other improvements—was reasonable and should be agreed to by the State. State negotiators had argued such a proposal would cost too much and violated existing rules mandated by the New Mexico State Personnel Board.
Although the New Mexico State Legislature failed to fund an overall pay increase, union officials say they wanted a 2.5 percent incremental increase written into their contracts to help pressure the Legislature to fund it in the future.
In May, Council 18 presented Richardson with a new contract and assumed he’d sign it. Anthony Marquez, executive director of Council 18, says the union now has requested a meeting with the governor but has not heard a response. He also noted that last week at its state convention in Albuquerque the AFL-CIO national labor union—affiliated with AFSCME—passed a resolution urging Richardson to sign Council 18’s contract.
Tiffany Ricci, spokeswoman for AFSCME, which represented Council 18 during the arbitration, says AFSCME is still negotiating and she expects the results to be favorable.
In response to questions from SFR, The New Mexico Office of the Governor issued the following statement regarding negotiations with the union: “The Governor’s Office acknowledges that there are some technical issues that remain. But we are hopeful and optimistic that an amicable agreement will be reached.”
Such optimism doesn’t sit well with local union leaders—especially corrections workers, who are particularly miffed at this latest setback because of their struggles for pay raises and rocky relations with Corrections Secretary Joe Williams.
Throughout the legislative session, union members picketed the Roundhouse for better wages, and in March, the Corrections Union unanimously handed Williams a vote of no confidence.
“For Richardson to say that he supports collective bargaining, go through the negotiations and then do this…We feel betrayed,” says Lee Ortega, a corrections sergeant at the Santa Fe state penitentiary and president of Santa Fe Sub-local 3422.
Cayetano Trujillo, a corrections worker and secretary treasurer for the Santa Fe Sub-local, was part of Council 18’s negotiating team and believes Richardson’s hardball tactics will considerably strain an already tense relationship between public employees and the governor.
“He’s dictating all of this on whole terms, so it’s as if the whole process was useless,” he says. “Now we have to go back to the same place we started. Now we have nothing. This was a real slap in the face.”


Nov. 2, 2005
Roid Rage
Prison union alleges inmate price gouging.
By Dan Frosch
Rarely does a prison movie go by without the requisite scenes of gargantuan inmates, swollen from untold bench press reps, stomping around the jail yard shirtless and scowling.
The reality, at least at the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe, is a bit more complicated.
SFR has learned that Sub-local 3422, the local chapter of the state prison guard union, has filed a complaint with Attorney General Patricia Madrid’s office alleging that the New Mexico Corrections Department is overcharging inmates for vitamin supplements used by inmate weight lifters.
Further, the union says Corrections Secretary Joe Williams inappropriately hired a personal friend, local weight trainer Perry Barnes, to administer the vitamin program, allowing Barnes to make a profit off the inmates in the process.
“Not only are the inmates getting gouged in terms of the prices,” Joe Kellenyi, Sub-local 3422 recording secretary, says, “the secretary also gave his friend what is essentially a no-bid contract.”
According to Kellenyi, the union originally contacted Madrid’s office this past summer after an inmate weight lifting club complained to guards that Barnes was charging them too much money for vitamin supplements. The inmate group, Power Demons Self Help Club, sells the vitamins at the Penitentiary commissary, and uses the profits to pay for funeral furloughs when an inmate’s family member dies, bedside visits to sick relatives and local charities.
Before Barnes started working with Williams late last year, Power Demons told Kellenyi that they alone negotiated with the supplier, Universal Nutrition, and were able to garner a better deal. An Aug. 8 letter, obtained by SFR, and written to Williams from Power Demons, calls Barnes unprofessional, his prices extreme and says the vitamin purchasing worked better when the club was in charge.
The letter also says Power Demons has thus far paid Barnes nearly $4,500 for the vitamins, far in excess of what it paid Universal directly for the same products.
Subsequent documents drafted by Power Demons and given to SFR by Kellenyi, show the club is now paying Barnes an average of about $5.75 more per package of vitamins for the four different products it purchases.
Since filing the initial complaint, Kellenyi says he’s been in contact with staff from Madrid’s office but has received no definitive word of whether an actual investigation will take place.
AG spokesman Paul Nixon confirmed receipt of the complaint from the union but would neither confirm nor deny an investigation.
Williams, himself a former body builder, acknowledges being in contact with the Attorney General’s Office but says there’s no impropriety and that standardization of vitamin purchasing was a security concern because the piecemeal fashion by which inmates were previously buying vitamins was difficult to oversee.
“We had inmates at some facilities buying bags of one protein and inmates at another buying a different sort of supplement,” Williams says. “Some of these vitamins the Federal Drug Administration were still looking at, and I didn’t feel comfortable with that.”
The New Mexico Corrections Department has a six-tier classification system based on the severity of crime committed. Only inmates classified as less dangerous—levels one though three—can lift weights. The more serious body builders within that lower risk population will buy multi-vitamins or protein supplements like creatine, William says.
According to Williams, since Barnes took over, the vitamin prices have largely gone down throughout the state prison system with the exception of the Penitentiary in Santa Fe.
Corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland says inmates at the Lea County Correctional Facility, for example, used to shell out $40 for a five-pound bag of “Ultra Whey” vitamins but now only pay $24. (Santa Fe inmates paid $19.45 before Barnes took over, she says.)
“We can understand why the inmates at Santa Fe might not want to pay more, but we had to look at the bigger picture,” Bland says.
Williams says the arrangement with Barnes—whom he met at a mall kiosk where Barnes was selling his vitamin wares—is not illegal because “there’s no taxpayer money involved.”
State agencies must allow open bidding for contracts of less than $20,000 and a “Request For Proposal” process for contracts of more than $20,000, according to Alex Cuellar, public information officer for the New Mexico General Services Department, which oversees purchasing for the state. But because Barnes sells his goods directly to the inmates, the Corrections Department does not have to do either, Cuellar confirms.
Barnes also defends his involvement and says the vitamin purchasing standardization prevents contraband from entering the prisons because it’s easier for the New Mexico Corrections Department to oversee a single system. He also says before he came on board, inmates were purchasing vitamins containing Aspartame, a controversial artificial sweetener.
Though Barnes would not divulge how much money he’s earned, he did tell SFR he typically sells protein vitamins for about half of the going market price—$46—and barely breaks even as a result.
“The allegations are false,” he says. “The Power Demons are just mad because they were making money when they were the distributor. They’re the price gougers.”
Not so, according to Kellenyi, who’s pressing the Attorney General’s Office to conduct an audit of the Santa Fe Penitentiary commissary.
“To us, this has every appearance of a kickback,” Kellenyi says. “We’re hopeful the attorney general will look at this seriously.”


June 7, 2006
Correcting Corrections
Union officials question prison leadership
By Dan Frosch
If it weren’t for the Treasurer’s Office, the New Mexico Corrections Department could make a legitimate claim as the most troubled agency in the state.
In 2005, a nasty split between the corrections union and administrators over salaries and working conditions left both sides on horrible terms. Last year, four guards were attacked at a facility in Santa Rosa, an incident union leaders blamed on a lack of funding. This past April, the ACLU of New Mexico filed a lawsuit against the Corrections Department for ignoring overcrowding at a women’s prison in Grants.
And the bad news keeps on coming.
On May 29, Gov. Bill Richardson removed Secretary of Corrections Joe Williams from office while investigators look into his use of a state cell phone, a state trip and his personal relationship with an out-of-town prison lobbyist. The temporary sacking came on the heels of a May 28 Albuquerque Journal story that detailed Williams’ relationship with Ann Casey, an assistant warden at an Illinois prison and a New Mexico lobbyist in 2005.
The day the governor put Williams on unpaid, administrative leave he also appointed Deputy Secretary of Administration Jolene Gonzales to take over day-to-day operations during the interim.
Now, union officials question Gonzales’ appointment.
“We’re very concerned because Jolene doesn’t have a corrections background. You think that would be a prerequisite to run the entire department,” Lee Ortega, president of northern sub-local 3422 in Santa Fe, says. “We don’t have a clue why she should be appointed.”
Richardson initially tapped Gonzales for the deputy secretary post in August 2004. Prior to that appointment, she worked as a budget analyst for the state’s Legislative Finance Committee for nearly 10 years. She was also budget bureau chief for the Corrections Department for approximately five months in 2004.
Union officials say none of those jobs translates into the ability to oversee 10 prison facilities and manage more than 2,000 employees throughout the state.
Both Ortega and Dominic Vigil, the state corrections union president, say Erma Sedillo, deputy secretary of operations, should have been appointed acting secretary. Sedillo has worked in the corrections industry for more than 20 years.
“Jolene has no experience. She’s basically a bookkeeper. We have a lot of serious issues we’re dealing with right now. And she’s not capable of handling them,” Vigil says. “Erma should have been put in that position.”
In response to questions about why the governor chose Gonzales over Sedillo, Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos sent SFR an e-mail statement:
“Governor Richardson is confident that the entire leadership team at the Corrections Department will do a good job of overseeing the operations during this brief period.”
Gallegos also stresses Williams will likely be back on the job after the review is completed June 9.
New Mexico Corrections Department spokeswoman Tia Bland repeatedly told SFR that Gonzales was unavailable for an interview.
Union officials have long had a contentious relationship with Williams and his administration, clashing over wages, staffing and other contractual issues [Outtakes, Aug. 3, 2005: “The Late Shift”].
In April 2005, union members gave Williams a vote of no confidence, and Vigil says many issues, such as staffing, remain unresolved. According to Vigil, the Corrections Department is more than 300 officers short.
Meanwhile, the investigation into Williams, conducted by the State Personnel Office, continues. State Personnel Director Sandra Perez says she expects to meet the June 9 deadline set jointly by her office and the governor’s office.
Union leaders on June 3 gathered in Las Cruces to discuss Williams’ leadership, Gonzales’ appointment and other ongoing concerns they have relating to work conditions.
Ortega says the union has decided to hold protests within the next month unless Williams is permanently removed from office and is replaced by someone “we can work with.”
The protests won’t be the first of their kind. In the spring of 2005, the corrections union held demonstrations outside the Roundhouse to protest the Legislature’s failure to grant workers a pay raise and what union leaders perceived as Williams’ lack of support.
Says Ortega: “We sit down with [the administration] at least once a month. They say they’re taking care of the issues we’re concerned about but nothing happens. We’re tired of playing their game.”

1 comment:

Giacomo said...

Unions are a thing of the past. We need to get rid of all of them. People are protected in the workforce better today. Just remember DMV, CalTrans, and all the government agencies. It is all a joke. We, as a people, need to make contributions to help the country as a whole. Some of you need to get a real job.