New Mexico Local 51 Makes Gains in Reopener, Ups Its Political Activity

Following an internal organizing campaign to increase the power of the local by activating members and mobilizing politically, UWUA Local 51 recently negotiated gains in a 2017 wage reopener. Members voted unanimously to ratify the 2017 agreement.

“In 2016, the City of Roswell claimed poverty and refused to provide any increases in wages,” UWUA Local 51 President Patrick Lopez explains. “We decided to take this issue to arbitration and we won.”

Lopez continued, “We only represent the city’s blue collar workers, however, the city was forced to give these increases to white collar, police and fire personnel. Our members mobilized and organized by attending city council meetings and creating a political alliance with other unions in the City of Roswell. These actions forced the city to restore these increases for this year’s budget. We also joined the New Mexico Federation of Labor to become more politically active as we prepare for contract negotiations next year when our entire agreement is open.”

While the City of Roswell refused to provide a cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase, the union fought to restore the following:

3% increase for yearly step increases
3% bonus for those who are “topped out” in the step process
Preserve longevity pay that pays an extra $5.00 a month for every year of service with no cap.

The contract reopener victory came after Local 51 led efforts to form a new political alliance in Roswell that includes the Roswell Education Association and the New Mexico Federation of Labor.

The alliance will focus on voter education and registration, as well as recruiting, screening and endorsing candidates for public office. The alliance will mobilize to elect candidates who support essential public services, without regard to political parties.

“Working families cannot afford to ignore the political process when it comes to critical public services,” Local 51 President Lopez said in announcing the formation of the labor alliance. “Roswell employees have become alarmed that many members of City Council have placed a low priority on the delivery of basic public services in city budgets during recent years. We are pleased to join with other groups to help make working-family issues a top priority in our community.”

“This alliance will serve to remind our elected leaders that, while corporations may own America, it is the workers who run America, guard America, and educate America,” President of the New Mexico Labor Federation Jon Hendry said.