Nearly four hundred southern New Mexico Democrats and area Union activists joined together on Labor Day morning to celebrate the heritage of organized labor and to rally support for Doña Ana County Democratic candidates and officeholders. The event was keynoted by U.S. Senate candidates State Auditor Hector Balderas and Congressman Martin Heinrich. It was the first public event in New Mexico that has featured both candidates for the 2012 Democratic U.S Senate nomination together in the same venue.
“Today we come together to celebrate the both the rights and accomplishments of the American labor movement” said Doña Ana County Democratic Chair Christy French. “We do this at a time when labor and the right to collective bargaining is under attack as never before. We caution those who would deny the rights of labor against the dangerous path they have chosen. As John L. Lewis, a mineworker the founder of the CIO said, ‘Workers have kept faith in American institutions. Most of the conflicts, which have occurred have been when labor’s right to live has been challenged and denied.’ We couldn’t agree more.” she said.
“As Democrats we choose a different path. We promise to keep faith with working people, because we understand that labor represents the great backbone of the nation and the path to prosperity for all of us. Make no mistake about this. To the working people of our county, our state, and our nation, we want you to know that we stand with you. We will always stand with you” Christy French said.
Both Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich echoed Doña Ana County Chair French, outlining the strong labor backgrounds of their families and promising to keep faith with America’s working people and to champion the rights of labor in the United States Senate.
In his speech Hector Balderas outlined the kitchen table family values passed down from his grandfather, a decorated World War II veteran and local plumber from Wagon Mound, a small rural community in northern New Mexico. Balderas promised to take the fight and his “home grown” values into the general election and answer the call to “fight those who would go so far as to question whether a sitting Congressman like Ben Ray Lujan is a ‘real American?'” a reference to a recent attack on the northern New Mexico Congressman by Tea Party Republicans. “I’m willing to take that fight to them” Balderas said.
“Fiscal responsibility is a progressive value” Balderas said, “Why wouldn’t we stand by those values. I’ll be happy to debate Heather Wilson on those values. The ugly truth is that corporate America has been driving the bus in Washington for quite a while. We’ve been giving away the farm now for quite some time now. I’m advocating restoring some kind of fairness and equity in our economy. If you are a school teacher you should be taxed the same as anyone else. Just because somebody wants to call you a ‘jobs creator’ shouldn’t mean you pay less taxes than a school teacher. Fairness is very simple, really.
“I’m also ready to debate Heather Wilson on why she squandered the largest surplus in recent U.S. History and why we can’t now be relying on that surplus in these difficult times to invest in schools and school children, teacher pay, roads and infrastructure. She has actually been unaccountable to you as taxpayers and citizens. She’s worked and advocated for only one group of Americans while turning her back on the vast majority of citizens. She should be called out for that.”
” I think Washington D.C. needs to hear from people who actually know how a water system makes all the difference in places like Wagon Mound or in Chamberino. Those things matter. When we’re talking about $2.1 Trillion Dollars to provide water systems and infrastructure to those kinds of communities, we really ought to have leaders who understand the importance of how those funds are spent, and where those resources need to go to make an impact. Washington D.C. is a little out of touch. They’ve forgotten how those issues actually effect the everyday lives of people in places like New Mexico.”
“If you actually come from a place where people hold you accountable, where people’s lives and livelihood are at stake, like Wagon Mound, the place my grandfather raised his family, then you aren’t going to engage in fiscal recklessness like Heather Wilson, because you know that your neighbors and the local school teacher are going to call you out. These Washington programs make a real difference. That’s the kind of politics I will take to Washington, D.C.” Hector Balderas said.
In his address Martin Heinrich also talked about the values his family passed on to him. “I want to talk about the importance of this holiday” he said. “Labor Day is not just another three day holiday. I want to talk about the importance of Labor to this country and our families. My Dad was in a Union, he was IBEW” Heinrich said. “He was a lineman and a local electrician. My mother was a seamstress for many years, back when Levi’s were still made in America, and she finished her work in an auto factory, one of the few plants that was a non-organized auto factories in the United States. It was in a right to work for less state. It was in a plant that openly hostile to organized labor, and I saw just what that meant to an individual family. My Dad worked hard, but he was treated with respect. He had a good contract. He had access to organized collective bargaining. My Mom didn’t have that where she worked. So when demand hit hard and they were looking for a cheaper place to produce some of these parts, her factory instead of adding more workers, just added more time.”
“So when they went to seven days a week, one day off every three weeks, it really took a toll. I remember when the carpal tunnel hit and she had to wear braces to work every day. The only good thing I can say about it, is I learned to cook.” Heinrich said. “I saw what a toll a workplace took on my mother that, frankly, did not respect her. That respect is what organized labor has brought to working people in this country. So for me Labor Day will never be just another three day weekend.” Heinrich said.
For his part Heinrich said he was tough enough to stand up to Heather Wilson and the Republicans. “We went through a pretty tough cycle last year,” he said, “they said I came in on a wave and I was going to go out on the last wave. We proved them wrong last year. I’ve seen a lot of good Democrats try to win and yet lose that seat” he said, “but we were able to keep it, the toughest election cycle year for Democrats in decades.”
“On Tuesday night, after we had won, and so many other Democrats had lost, the news media asked me what was the difference. I told them I had to subscribe to idea that we had stuck to our convictions. I think I one and others lost because too many of my colleagues had run from the things that they had believed in. They took tough votes, like on health care, but when they got rattled by the Tea Party they began to run for the hills, change their positions and apologize for votes. We never did that.
“I never apologized for holding Wall Street accountable at a time they were putting our mortgages and our retirements at risk, and I never apologized for taking on the health insurance lobby in this country. That is the kind of race that we’re going to run for the United States Senate.”
“If you want to know what kind of Senator I will be, look at my votes in the last two sessions of Congress. Whether I voted for the community. Whether I sided with the corporate lobbyists, or whether I sided with New Mexicans. I’m proud of every one of my votes, and if you knew my family, and how we grew up you could have predicted every one of those votes.” Martin Heinrich said.
Randy Moncrief of AFT and Doña Ana County Democrats
Other prominent Democrats at the event included Attorney General Gary King, State Senators Mary Jane Garcia, Steve Fischmann, and Mary Kay Papen, State Representatives Joseph Cervantes, Mary Helen Garcia, Joni Gutierrez, and Eleanor Chavez, who made the journey south from Albuquerque for the Doña Ana County event.
Others included Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins, County Treasurer David Gutierrez, County Commissioners Billy Garrett, Karen Perez, Probate Judge Alice M. Salcido, and former State Representative J. Paul Taylor. Candidates Evelyn Madrid Erhard who is running for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District and Mark DiAntonio, who is running for Doña Ana County District Attorney were also on hand to seek support.
Anthony Mayor Ramon S. Gonzales and Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, along with mayoral challengers Michael Ray Huerta and Dolores Conner of Las Cruces, and Councillors Miguel Silva, Olga Pedroza, Nathan Small, and Sharon Thomas were also in attendance.
Honored at the event was Randy Moncrief of the American Federation of Teachers, a longtime teacher at Gadsden Independent School. “Did the unions cause the great crash?” Moncrief asked, “No. What we did was went to work every day.”