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Martinez Stiffed Workers

Martinez Stiffed Workers

By refusing to set new prevailing wage rates since 2010 ... the administration effectively denied workers on New Mexico public-works jobs any raises for five years

N.M. Gov. Susana MartinezBY DAN VUKELICH

The New Mexico Supreme Court today said foot-dragging by the Martinez administration led to underpayment of workers on New Mexico public-works projects for the last five years and the court ordered the administration to comply with the so-called “Little Davis-Bacon Act” within 30 days.

By refusing to set new prevailing wage rates since 2010 and simply “reissuing” the same prevailing wage rates that were in effect in 2010 — the administration effectively denied workers on New Mexico public-works jobs any raises for five years. In its ruling, the high court found that the administration’s inaction led workers to be paid 5 to 35 percent less than they should have been.

The court’s order called the administration’s delays “inexcusable.” The court pointedly noted that in 2010 a lawyer for the administration had told the state’s five Supreme Court justices that a new set of rates could be in place “in four or five months.”

Under New Mexico’s version of the national Davis-Bacon Act, local, county or state construction projects must use prevailing wages — as determined by pay and fringe benefits outlined in local collective bargaining agreements — in determining how much workers will be paid on public-works projects worth more than $60,000.

Three justices concurred in the opinion written by Justice Petra Jimenez Maes. Justice Richard Bosson, who announced he would retire later this year, recused himself.

The case the court ruled on was brought by a consortium of unions. The lead plaintiff was the New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council.

Ironically, Gov. Susana Martinez was holding a news conference this afternoon to announce her signing of a “jobs package” approved during the just-completed special session of the Legislature that included tax credits and other incentives for job-creating businesses relocating to New Mexico.

 

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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