New Mexico’s New Year’s Resolution

Congrats to Brenda Rodriguez, our new Member Coordinator in Albuquerque, on her first post for the Main Street Blog! -Doug

This past Christmas, when majority of people kept a close watch on their holiday spending, Working America members took the time and energy to speak with their co-workers, friends, and neighbors to ask them to donate a can or two for our annual holiday food drive. The result? A network of people came together to create Christmas Gift Baskets for families who are currently unemployed or underemployed.

One such member is Rosie Sandoval, a retired 71 year old, who reached out to all her neighbors about donating non-perishable food items for the holiday food drive. Thanks to her efforts, Rosie – along with her network of neighbors – was able to contribute to the food baskets for families in New Mexico. Mrs. Sandoval understands the plight of many working-class families first hand but also values the power of collective giving: “It’s not much, but we share all that we can during these difficult economic times.”

Such is the case for Martin Hall, a 53-year old disabled veteran, who depends on social security. “I can’t afford gas,” Mr. Hall explains, “so I have to walk it everywhere. If they were to lower Social Security, I won’t be able to pay for rent or my bills. I will be living in the streets.” Mr. Hall voices the concern of many people in New Mexico currently struggling with unemployment and poverty. It is going take a strong collective force to make the change New Mexico needs.

A year ago, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez spoke about a “shared sacrifice” in her State of the State address. At that time 1 out of 4 children lived in poverty, and corporations enjoyed a very comfy tax loophole (they still do). Startling economic indicators show, however, that Martinez’s so-called “shared sacrifice” isn’t getting New Mexico’s economy back on track.  As we start the New Year, we must resolve to bring the uneven weight of these sacrifices to light and begin to reprioritize our collective needs.

Today, New Mexico has the largest wealth gap in the nation, 1 out of 3 children live in poverty, and we are one out of only two states still showing negative job growth.

Despite all of this, 2012 ended with a great victory for Albuquerque. The initiative to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 passed with an overwhelming support of 66 percent, meaning 2 out of every 3 Burqueños voted in favor of the initiative. Thanks to Albuquerque voters, 40,000 people will benefit from this new legislative bill giving the community spending power and boosting the local economy. The implementation of the minimum wage increase in Albuquerque signifies a new beginning for New Mexico. In a time when 6.2 percent of New Mexicans are unemployed and 31 percent of New Mexico children live in poverty, it is time to reevaluate the priorities of our state leaders and start following the thread of collective power of our communities.

The spirit of the holidays, just like the energy of the New Year, should not be measured by a shared sacrifice, but by the long-lasting relationships we form with our neighbors and co-workers that creates a collective power that can win a minimum wage increase by a landslide, a collective power that can and will fight against poverty, job loss and unemployment; the spirit of I am Working America.

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