N.M. public defender takes action against union
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Legal Newsline) - An Alamogordo, N.M., public defender filed a complaint Tuesday against a local union for wrongfully charging her with failure to pay union dues for the past five years.
Nancy Fleming of the New Mexico Public Defender Department filed the action with the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, New Mexico Council 18.
She is alleging the union is illegally trying to collect compulsory union dues payments from her paycheck without notifying her that she was a part of the union's monopoly bargaining unit. She also states the union is refusing to follow federal disclosure requirements.
According to Fleming, she was unaware that AFSCME Council 18 union officials' claimed to represent her. But Fleming began to receive notices earlier this year from a collection agency stating that the union reported her delinquent in paying union dues or fees dating back to 2006.
Since New Mexico does not have a right-to-work law, workers who do not join a union are still required to pay part of union dues to keep their jobs. However, federal case law requires union officials to inform nonmember workers of where their union dues are being spent.
Union officials in New Mexico often report workers who do not make union dues payments to a collection agency, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which is providing Fleming with free legal assistance.
"AFSCME union bosses are charging an unsuspecting worker for 'representation' she did not even know existed until a collection agency harassed her for delinquent payments," said Mark Mix, President of NRTW.
"Thanks to biased federal and state laws, union officials are the only private individuals who can claim to 'represent' someone and then demand payment from them - but union officials must at least inform workers of their rights before they do so."