State workers protest outside Roundhouse over telework policy

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SANTA FE, N.M. — It was back to the office for hundreds of state workers Thursday. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham recently ended the state’s work-from-home policy for public employees, but some of those workers are putting up a fight.

Nearly two dozen union members protested outside the Roundhouse Thursday – many on their lunch breaks. Union leaders are worried about a mass exodus of state workers.

Local reps with the Communications Workers of America, which covers 13 New Mexico agencies, said they’re already seeing resignation letters tied to this telework decision.

Protestors said the state’s vacancy rate is already sitting just under 25%, but believe this decision will not only impact the workers who stay – but every New Mexican who relies on state services.

“I think it’s critical that the citizens of New Mexico understand how extreme the situation is,” said Linsey Hurst, who works at the New Mexico Environment Department. “In a four-year period, we had almost 100% turnover in staff.”

Despite the governor’s office delaying the end of telework by a month, union leaders said many state agencies aren’t prepared to handle the surge of employees.

One state worker shared a video with KOB 4 that showed the basement office her team was told to work in – it was just desks and chairs in an empty room.

“My main issue is we have some of the finest people in New Mexico, and we want to keep them here in New Mexico, having this creative option, which is one of the positive things we learned from COVID simply makes us more effective in our state,” said Albuquerque Rep. Joy Garratt.

Garratt said she doesn’t want New Mexico to repeat what happened in Virginia, where more than 300 state workers quit their jobs last summer after their telework options were taken away.