The conservative push to undermine union rights in New Mexico has shifted from the Roundhouse to counties and a Koch brothers’ funded group says it has a big budget to push it in other counties and cities if this first effort is successful. Earlier this month, Sandoval County commissioners introduced a local “right-to-work” bill to erode union rights locally, allowing corporations to pay lower wages and preventing works from organizing for safe work conditions.
After gaining a majority in the State House in 2014, Republicans made passing so-called, ‘right-to-work’ legislation a top priority, but Democrats successfully organized to stop the legislation at the state level. But proponents of the legislation promised to be back with a different anti-union strategy and Sandoval County seems to be the first test of that.
What is “right-to-work”?
“Right-To-Work” is the completely misnamed, ultraconservative labor policy that is in place in many Republican-controlled states. These states all share huge wage gap issues, high poverty, and high unemployment; issues New Mexico already struggles with without instituting regressive policies that target workers.
We reported earlier this year that the Koch brothers were expanding their programs in New Mexico with a new focus on local efforts. They spent thousands of dollars opposing the Albuquerque Healthy Workforce ballot initiative in the recent city elections (ironically, they argued that voters should reject that ordinance because out-0f-state progressives helped to craft it. Now they are back in Sandoval County with a national model RTW bill for county commissioners).
The recent Sandoval County Commission meeting was standing room only as commissioners took up debate on the item. Labor leaders were vocal and visible in opposition, as were many supporters, including some who said they had been offered stipends to come from other parts of the state but did not have a home or vote in Sandoval County. State Representative Daymon Ely (D – Sandoval County, Corrales) spoke in opposition to the so-called “Right-To-Work” revision, emphasizing the educational opportunities and fair wages that unions provide in a state in dire need of these things.
And when it came their turn, two county commissioners surprised the crowd with offensive descriptions for Italian Americans, educators, and women in their defense of the legislation.
Watch the full meeting below (or jump to minutes these minutes to hear these comments).
Commissioner Rhodes (at 112:52) used his platform to berate and belittle constituents of Sandoval County, while his fellow Commissioner, Commissioner Jay Block (at minute 50:00) used his post to personally attack Jon Hendry, President of the New Mexico Federation of Labor AFL-CIO. Block claimed Hendry and union supporters have resorted to bullying him, and that his stance on “Right-To-Work,” was an opportunity to choose to stand up for himself.
Commissioner Holden-Rhodes took to the microphone and uses the pejorative “goombadis” to describe Italian Americans in his hometown who were members of the local union; he goes on to blame a local educator referring to her and her colleagues as the “ilk” in reference to the other groups he just negatively framed, that is responsible for the “American disaster” that is our public education system.(read more at NM Political Report)
Sandoval County Commission Meeting.
Thursday’s (October 5th’s) meeting was billed as the first public discussion on a proposed ordinance, but it is clear that some commissioners have every intent introduce the ordinance soon.
AFP’s State Director Robert “Burly” Cain told Albuquerque Business First earlier this year that pushing this fight and others at the state and local level is a top priority in New Mexico, and they have the budget to do it:
“We have a strong budget and we will be enduring,” Cain said of the campaign’s timeline. “We’ll be supporting everybody who decides to proceed forward at a city and county level,” said Cain.
And they have a template for doing it. “We’ve done that in Kentucky and we feel that this is a great step,” Cain told the New Mexico Political Report. In Kentucky, a dozen counties passed their own right-to-work ordinances after it failed at the statewide level, according to the paper.
Now that you’ve watched the clips, it’s time to take some action in supporting our unions in New Mexico and rejecting the Koch-funded corporate agenda for New Mexico.
Here are two things you can do:
Attend Sandoval County’s Commission Meeting on Thurs. Oct 19th (Tonight) at 6pm and voice your opposition to this bill during public comment. RSVP and get all the talking points you need.
Can’t attend? Send a message to Sandoval County Commissioners telling them that right-to-work is wrong for New Mexico and working families should continue to enjoy the right to earn fair wages, not lower ones.