By Jon Hendry, president of the executive board for the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
This Labor Day, throughout the state of New Mexico, we will pause to recognize the incredible achievements of America’s workers. Like every summer, we’ll march in parades, host barbecues with our friends and celebrate all who make this country run. But we also should recognize that despite our sweat, our hard work and our innovation, too many families are struggling and unable to get by.
This hasn’t happened by chance. Political and corporate attacks on working people have meant that for decades wages either declined or remained flat. Good jobs are harder than ever to come by. Large raises have gone almost exclusively to CEOs, corporate shareholders and the 1 percent. Working people are more productive than ever — but are not reaping the rewards.
This is why the labor movement has been involved with efforts to raise the minimum wage all over New Mexico. From Santa Fe — where the state’s highest living wage has resulted in the state’s lowest unemployment rate — to Albuquerque to Las Cruces, working people across the state, frustrated by the indifference and hostility of political and corporate powers, have taken matters into their own hands. For several years, we have witnessed incredible achievements across New Mexico, a growing workers’ movement led by those who have said, “Enough. It’s time for fundamental, lasting change.”
And they’re not stopping until every working family in New Mexico is able to earn a living wage.
Across the country, other working families have seen the example we’ve set and have taken up the mantle for change. Workers, community organizers, faith leaders, civil rights activists and many others have come together to achieve a variety of impressive victories for the Raising Wages movement.
Propelled by public pressure, dozens of municipalities and 10 states have passed minimum wage increases since January. Four more states, as well as the city of Las Cruces, will vote on whether to raise their minimum wages at the ballot box this fall, thanks to volunteers and organizers who collected hundreds of thousands of signatures of support in each state.
No one should work for a living yet struggle to support a family. But some of the fastest job growth is occurring in such low-wage industries as fast food and retail, which is why more families feel like they are struggling to keep up with living costs. These same industries are least likely to pay a living wage or provide basic benefits like earned sick days and holidays. This means many of America’s workers can’t afford to take the day off if they get sick. And they certainly can’t afford to take a day off to care for a family member in need.
On Labor Day, we are asking working families to take part in the local and national push to raise wages and help create a more equal economy. Every day, workers labor and sacrifice to achieve the American Dream. This Labor Day should be a celebration for working families and a commitment to continue our movement to raising wages. We are ready to secure a better future for all.