Union Bosses ‘Go to Bat For Accused Rapist’

(Click here to download the May 2014 National Right to Work Committee Newsletter

Prison Guard Remains on Government Payroll as He Awaits Trial

“It’s a bad idea to employ a fox to guard a henhouse. It’s worse to keep employing the alleged fox after you have found reason to pay off his alleged victims.”

To ordinary Americans, the above observations, which led off an April 8 editorial in the Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal, may appear to be mere common sense.

Unfortunately, in states with laws on the books granting government union bosses broad monopoly-bargaining privileges over civil servants, common sense in public-sector labor-management relations isn’t just uncommon. It’s frequently illegal.

then-Gov. Bill Richardson in 2003Gov. Bill Richardson Signed New Mexico Monopoly-Bargaining Law in 2003

Eleven years ago this past March, Big Labor politician Bill Richardson, then New Mexico’s governor, signed a law imposing so-called “exclusive” union bargaining on state and local public servants, including teachers.

Under this statute, officials of massive government unions like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME/AFL-CIO) are empowered to speak for union members and nonmembers alike in negotiations with government agencies over employee pay, benefits, and work rules.

Effectively, changes in the rules for how employees are managed cannot occur without government union bosses’ acquiescence. The consequences of giving Big Labor this inordinate power have been bad for taxpayers, conscientious public employees, and many other New Mexicans.

The matter of Torry Chambers, a prison guard at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Bernalillo County (part of the Albuquerque metropolitan area) is a case in point.

In 2012, Bernalillo County agreed to a nearly $1 million settlement with three female MDC inmates who had accused Mr. Chambers of rape. Two more alleged rape victims have come forward since.

Nevertheless, today he is still on the MDC’s taxpayer-funded payroll as he awaits trial on eight counts of rape and helping a male inmate commit rape.

The county did try to move Mr. Chambers out of his job in 2011, after the original accusations were made. But it failed, and local officials now seem to have given up.

The reason for the failure was the zealous opposition of AFSCME officers. Wielding their statutory monopoly-bargaining power, AFSCME union bosses “successfully filed a grievance, and [Mr. Chambers] was moved to an all-male unit where he remained until September 2013,” as a March 31 Journal editorial reported.

‘Moving an Accused Rapist Away From His Prey’ Requires Union-Boss Approval

At that time, another female inmate accused him of rape, and he was put on paid leave. The MDC wanted to put him on unpaid leave, but backed off when AFSCME chiefs invoked a union contract clause prohibiting unpaid leave.

As the March 31 editorial correctly observed, in New Mexico today “moving an accused rapist away from his prey and off the payroll is subject to union negotiations.”

“‘Union Goes to Bat For Accused Rapist,’ the headline of one of the Albuquerque Journal editorials on the Torry Chambers case, gets it right with regard to the AFSCME brass,” said National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix.

“But I don’t think the headline is fair with regard to the union rank-and-file.”

Honest Workers Can’t Really Even Distance Themselves From Callous AFSCME Dons

Mr. Mix explained: “It’s safe to assume that many conscientious MDC employees are outraged by the fact that union officials who purport to ‘represent’ them are using every legal tactic available to help ensure that a man who is now set to go on trial for raping inmates remains on the public payroll for as long as possible.

“But under New Mexico’s monopoly-bargaining law it is impossible for employees to protest AFSCME bosses’ callous cynicism by withdrawing from the union and representing themselves.

“No wonder so many public employees in states where the right not to join a government union remains fully protected want nothing to do with the AFSCME union.

“Retaining protections for such employees’ Right to Work and extending these protections to employees who are currently conscripted into a union are key objectives of the National Right to Work Committee and its three million members.”