Home News Local News Sheriff’s deputies petition to form union; Majority sign on for collective bargaining

Sheriff’s deputies petition to form union; Majority sign on for collective bargaining

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A Chaves County sheriff’s deputy patrols an area near Old Dexter Highway and Brasher Road after a standoff with a man in September. Sheriff’s deputies have initiated the process to form their own union. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

Following the unionization of the Roswell police and fire departments, deputies of the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office have initiated the legal process to form their own union.

The Chaves County Labor Management Relations Board, which meets infrequently as needed, is scheduled to hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to consider the petition from the International Union of Police Association, AFL-CIO. The meeting will be held in the Commission Chambers of the Chaves County Administrative Center at 1 St. Mary’s Place in Roswell.

Chaves County manager and attorney Stanton Riggs said the three-member labor board currently has only two members. However, Riggs said the labor board can proceed with the unionization petition with a quorum of two members.

“Hopefully, they will select a third member at that meeting,” Riggs said last week. “They have not seen the petition as yet.”

According to the petition filed Sept. 20 with the County Clerk’s Office, Sheriff’s Office deputies, sergeants, detectives and animal control officers seek the certification of the International Union of Police Association, AFL-CIO, as their exclusive bargaining unit. The initial certification is a necessary step to the formation of a union, and the beginning of a potential collective bargaining agreement between the deputies and the county.

The petition states about 34 Sheriff’s Office employees would be in the proposed union.

“There is not a collective bargaining agreement in effect covering any of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit,” the petition states.

Thirty percent of affected employees, pursuant to state law, must sign authorization cards to initiate the unionization process.

The petition included an exhibit with 19 authorization cards signed by Sheriff’s Office officers, or 55 percent of affected employees, exceeding the necessary 30 percent threshold.

The International Union of Police Association, AFL-CIO, represented by Carlsbad attorney W.T. Martin Jr., requested that the labor board either certify the union based on the number of authorization cards, or conduct an election by secret ballot for the deputies, sergeants, detectives and animal control officers to decide if the International Union of Police Association, AFL-CIO should be their exclusive bargaining agent.

Only a simple majority vote by deputies is needed to form a union.

Chaves County Sheriff Britt Snyder said he will support the decision of his deputies.

“They are working hard and putting their lives at risk to defend our county and I respect and admire them because of their sacrifices,” the sheriff said. “I support the deputies having that right available to them.”

Snyder said the unionization process is new to Chaves County.

“I don’t know exactly what the process will be moving forward,” he said. “The county is the group that will handle it and the county manager will keep me informed. The county hired an attorney to help them, who knows these issues, because the county is new at this.”

A similar effort to form a union at the Roswell Fire Department passed with flying colors in March, when firefighters voted 57-2, or 96 percent in support of forming a union during a March 13 election at Fire Station 1.

The Roswell Labor Management Relations Board subsequently voted 3-0 to recognize the Roswell Professional Fire Fighters Association as the exclusive representative of firefighters. The unionization process did not require City Council or mayoral approval.

The Roswell Professional Fire Fighters Association, affiliated with the International Association of Fire Fighters, is now the exclusive representative of Roswell firefighters from the rank of lieutenant and below, joining the city’s police officers and utility workers as the only groups of city employees covered by union agreements.

The city’s police officers formed the Roswell Police Officers’ Association in 1995, for sworn police officers from the rank of sergeant down. The Roswell Police Officers’ Association and city have entered into a series of collective bargaining agreements since then, concerning wages, working conditions and job security.

The city’s other collective bargaining unit is the city’s Utility Workers of America Local 51.

The city’s Labor Management Relations Board considers any complaints that allege prohibited practices. The Roswell Police Officers’ Association has alleged violations of the city’s collective bargaining agreement, such as the lack of step pay raises for police officers. The parties are currently in mediation over the pay dispute.

Editor Jeff Tucker may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at editor@rdrnews.com.