New Mexico Approves Union Shop Law, Voids Local Right-to-Work Laws

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

April 8, 2019

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed a new law expressly allowing employers and labor organizations to enter into union security agreements. This union security agreement law is effective June 14, 2019.

At the same time, the state nullified right-to-work ordinances that had been enacted in several New Mexico counties. A right-to-work law prohibits mandatory membership or payment of union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Currently, 27 states have passed such laws.

In workplaces that operate under a union security or union shop agreement, membership in a labor organization can be required as a condition of employment. Such arrangements differ from an agency shop, in which an employee working at a union-represented workplace is not required to join the union but must pay a "fair-share" fee to cover the costs related to collective bargaining and contract enforcement.

The legislation followed a conflict between the state and 10 of its counties over the passage of local right-to-work ordinances, despite an opinion from the state attorney general saying the counties did not have the authority to pass such laws. The counties based their actions on a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that extended states' authority to pass right-to-work laws to include cities and counties. However, New Mexico is in the 10th Circuit and is not bound by that ruling.

The new law preserves the state's exclusive right "to prohibit the negotiation, execution or application of agreements requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment in New Mexico." It also expressly prohibits state subdivisions from passing or keeping in effect laws regarding mandatory union membership as a condition of employment.