“Disappointed. All of us.”
That’s how Gil Martinez, vice president of the local union that represents hundreds of city employees, described the group’s response to Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber’s reelection Tuesday night.
During Webber’s first term, the union filed multiple grievances with a state labor board and reports to federal agencies claiming unsafe working conditions. It won a $700,000 settlement to make up for a pandemic furlough plan that was found to be in violation of the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
The union also voted “no confidence” in the mayor.
Martinez said he hopes Webber’s second term is far less contentious. But he wasn’t optimistic.
“It is hard to look forward and think things will get better with the way things are right now,” he said. “I hope we can mend some fences. The way we are going just isn’t working.”
Webber offered a brighter outlook Thursday. Going forward, he said, his administration and the union are going to find ways to work together to show there is no “us or them.”
“I said it election night,” he said. “I am grateful to the people who support me, but I am also grateful to the people who have supported other candidates. That is the democratic process.”
Webber defeated City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler, who was endorsed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ Local 3999, and Alexis Martinez Johnson, an environmental engineer and former congressional candidate, in the first round of the ranked-choice election with 55 percent of the vote.
The lack of goodwill between the union and Webber began early in the election, with the mayor’s campaign accusing the union of circulating antisemitic materials and union members accusing the mayor of bullying and pushing out employees with opposing viewpoints.
Recently, union President Gilbert Baca was fired after he was accused of timecard fraud. Baca claimed his termination was in retaliation for his advocacy since he took the reins of the union in December 2020.
Baca, who could not be reached for comment, has appealed the firing.
City spokesman Dave Herndon declined to comment on Baca’s termination in October. He said the city does not comment on personnel matters, and elected officials, such as the mayor, are not involved in disciplinary matters.
Meanwhile, the city and the union are in the middle of a drawn-out contract negotiation that has been at a virtual standstill since January 2020.
Martinez said union leaders believed Vigil Coppler would have made a positive change in the negotiation process.
“We worked to get her in there because we knew she was on labor’s side,” Martinez said. “She was always concerned about the employees and the inequities we were facing the past four years.”
Webber said he couldn’t speak about the pace of the negotiations but, unlike Martinez, was optimistic the two sides would reach a deal sooner rather than later.
“We have to work together to make Santa Fe a better place for everyone,” Webber said. “That includes people who are members of the union, people who are members of an organization who endorsed someone else.”