State workers rally to keep telework policy in place

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – There’s a battle brewing over where state workers, work. In late November, the state personnel office sent a notice to state employees about the pandemic-era policy reversal. Leaders say they negotiated with union leadership, and landed on a Feb. 2 return date for most employees. 

But, concerns over supplies and office space are starting to surface.

“My team actually has nowhere to go,” said one employee within New Mexico’s Public Education Department who wanted to stay anonymous. “We have no desk space, we have no monitors, we have nothing. So if we go back we literally have nowhere to be.”

She brought up several concerns, and stressed the benefits of the at-home option.

“I think New Mexico needs a modernization of the workforce and this is going backwards,” she said. “I’m a mother of several children, and they have special needs and this is not conducive to working families.”

Micheal Peterson is among leadership in the local chapter of the Communications Workers of America Union. He says they’re already getting other complaints about lack of equipment, and requests for office relocation.

“I don’t know how that is actually going to work out Feb. 2,” said Peterson. “There’s simply too many staff without offices.”

He joined other union and non-union members at the Roundhouse to rally for the policy on day one of the legislative session.

“Telework works. In every aspect you can think of,” said Peterson.

For the PED worker, it comes down to quality of life.

“I’m a happier employee when I have telework, and I have that flexibility,” she said. “Good policy reaches out to those it’s going to impact and surveys them. Which never happened.”

Some legislators, like Rep. Joy Garratt of House District 29 in Bernalillo County, are speaking in favor of the telework policy:

“COVID taught us that teams can work together online through Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and many other ways. I believe that supporting multiple ways of working, mixing in person and online, honoring employees by offering work options makes for happier, more productive employees. I believe that New Mexico should be a leader in supporting hybrid and innovative work designs. This makes our state attractive to workers in every field. It’s also why I am so dedicated to broadband expansion, access and affordability.”

Rep. Garratt says she’s currently drafting a letter to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on the issue.