Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday that she would require state employees to be vaccinated or tested for the coronavirus.
Lujan Grisham’s executive order will go into effect Monday. “Right now, it’s very simple: Get a vaccine, or else you will be tested,” Lujan Grisham said in a news release. “I will not tolerate any unnecessary risk within the workforce under my authority.”
The surge of the coronavirus coupled with vaccination hesitancy and resistance contributed to the decision, the news release said. State workers who aren’t vaccinated will have to show they have tested negative for the disease once every two weeks.
A union leader in New Mexico said his organization encourages people to get vaccinated but doesn’t support mandates as a requirement of employment. Dan Secrist, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 7076, said the governor’s order takes precedent over collective bargaining agreements.
Secrist, whose union represents close to 3,000 state workers in New Mexico, said logistics related to the order, such as discipline and how the tests are administered, are within the scope of collective bargaining, and he hopes to reopen talks on such matters.
The Governor’s Office said the policy will apply to about 17,000 state workers. The order says those who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to wear a mask indoors while at work except when eating and drinking.
Employees who do not comply may face discipline, including firing, the statement said. Lujan Grisham’s order followed a similar demand by the state of California.
Lujan Grisham also will consider mandating vaccinations in high-risk settings under her authority, the order said. She encouraged other government entities and private employers to implement policies similar to hers.
State worker Joe Garrett of Tucumcari said he got vaccinated but did so by choice. “I firmly disagree with being forced,” said Garrett, whose office sees that road projects follow plans and specifications. “I think it should be of free will, whether you’re a private individual or state employee.”
Steve Pearce, chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico, criticized the governor’s executive order.
“This is the latest example of Gov. Lujan Grisham overstepping her authority and having government make personal choices for its citizens,” Pearce said in a statement. “Now she is threatening to fire any state employee if they don’t comply with her executive order.”
Secrist, the Local 7076 president, said his union wouldn’t tolerate attempts “to weaponize the policy.” Secrist’s organization represents state employees in health, treasury, cultural affairs and other state departments and agencies.
Lujan Grisham said she had “absolutely zero appetite” for another surge in infections. “Please do not jeopardize anyone’s life, anyone’s livelihood or our state’s economic recovery,” she said. “Get vaccinated.”