URGENT: We need your help to get a bill ensuring employees can earn paid sick leave over the finish line by contacting your senators now!

With your help, we can ensure that New Mexican workers no longer have to choose between their paychecks and their health.

HB 20, Healthy Workplaces Act, will likely be heard on the Senate floor TODAY.

About half of all workers in New Mexico lack paid sick leave. They have to either go to work sick or lose wages or risk losing their jobs to care for themselves or a loved one. HB 20 would ensure that employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. 

Please call or email your senator NOW and urge them to support paid sick leave! 

You could share a personal story about why you and other workers need paid time off when you are sick. You could also say or write something like this: “I urge the Senator to support HB 20 for paid sick leave. No one should have to choose between their health and their paycheck, but for the roughly half of all New Mexico workers who lack paid sick leave, this is the reality.”

The bill has already passed the House. Efforts to get the bill passed are now focussed on the Senate. You can find the senator who represents your district here: https://www.nmlegis.gov/members/find_my_legislator

ACTION ALERT: We need your help to get the Healthy Food Financing Act Heard!

Every New Mexican should have access to healthy foods.

SB 229, the Healthy Food Financing Act, would provide loans and grants to small food businesses to increase access to local, healthy foods in both rural and urban areas of our state. The bill will bring federal money into New Mexico for economic development and investment in community-led solutions to hunger, while supporting local farmers and improving health outcomes for New Mexico’s families.  

We need your help to get the Healthy Food Financing Heard! The Healthy Food Financing Act still needs to pass the House floor to make it to the Governor’s desk. Please contact House leadership TODAY to urge them to hear and pass SB 229.

Please personalize your message with your unique perspective and experience. Here is an example of what you might write or say. Representative ____, I’m asking you to support SB 229, the Healthy Food Financing Act and bring it to a vote on the House floor. This bill will fight hunger in New Mexico and help our economic recovery. SB 229 invests in community-led solutions to hunger and brings federal funding into our state to support local farmers & food businesses.

House Leadership

ACTION ALERT: Support language access for state services!

All New Mexicans deserve equal access to state services, regardless of the language they speak.

New Mexico is home to thousands of people that primarily speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Diné and other languages. Despite being required by law, many agencies do not provide information and services in languages New Mexicans understand. Lack of language services has delayed or prevented New Mexicans from applying for unemployment insurance, food assistance, and Medicaid prior to and during the pandemic and deepened economic and health disparities in our communities. 

Senate Bill 368 will increase resources and services in languages other than English, ensuring that more New Mexicans can access state services. The bill will be heard in the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee FRIDAY a half hour after the Senate floor session. 

We need your help to get it passed! Please submit written comments today or sign up to speak and comment in the committee hearing.

You can share a personal story in your email about why state agencies should provide interpretation or translation. You can also say something like this: “I urge senators to support SB 368. All New Mexicans should have access to state services. Coordinating and planning language services is a common sense step to address health and economic inequities in our state services.”

Instructions on how to submit written comments and make public comments at the hearing are below. 

Bill summary

SB 368: Language Access Analysis, Plan, and Annual Report will increase language access by requiring state agencies to: 

  • Assess the number of New Mexicans they serve that primarily speak a language other than English and determine the resources needed to ensure meaningful access to services, like public benefits and unemployment insurance.
  • Develop and implement an annual plan to provide meaningful access to state programs for individuals who primarily speak languages other than English. 
  • Submit the annual report to the governor and the legislative finance committee.

Written comment instructions

  • Submit to SPAC@nmlegis.gov 
  • Written comments should be 300 words or less. 

Public comment (during hearing) instructions

When: 30 minutes after Senate floor session on Friday, March 12

Sign up to make public comment via this form:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd6DQLFUzJjhBKz16R2F1jHrXTZN68hQ3_dMl0JAlGgl0kFzQ/viewform

You will be contacted by the committee’s Zoom operator who will give you instructions on how to access the public comment portion by Zoom.

What to expect during the hearing: The committee will be taking public comment. The chair of the committee will announce the bill and ask who supports SB 368. At that time, to provide a comment use the Zoom reaction button and raise your hand. The Chair will call your name and unmute your zoom when it is your turn to speak.

Tips 

  • Keep your remarks brief and to the point.
  • If you have a personal story about how state agencies’ lack of interpretation or translation services has impacted you or your family, please share it.
  • Close the Legislature’s webcast page when you give your comment so there is not an echo during your remarks.
  • Make sure you are not muted when you start speaking.
  • Do not rely on your computer or phone for notes. Write them down or print them in case your computer screen freezes.
  • Close other tabs and windows in your browser to make sure your connection is good.
  • If your connection or microphone doesn’t work, be prepared to call in with the information above.

Virtual Rally on State Paid Sick Leave

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Join workers, community members, union members and allies for a virtual rally with State Legislators on March 2 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss why hard working New Mexicans need earned paid sick leave.

Únete a trabajadores, miembros de la comunidad y aliados en un mitin virtual con legisladores estatales este 2 de marzo a las 6:30 de la tarde. Para hablar sobre la importancia de que los trabajadores en Nuevo México tengan días de enfermedad pagados.

The rally will focus on HB 20 Healthy Workplaces Act, which when passed, would allow workers statewide to earn paid sick leave to care for themselves and their loved ones when sick.

Hablaremos sobre la propuesta HB 20, la Ley de Lugares de Trabajo Saludables, que, de ser aprobada, permitirá que los trabajadores en todo el estado tengan derecho a días de enfermedad pagados que podrán usar cuando se enfermen o para cuidar de sus seres queridos enfermos.

Habrá interpretación al español

WHAT:       Paid Sick Leave Virtual Rally

Register at https://www.mobilize.us/nm-wfp/event/376576/ 

WHO:        

  • Frontline workers who need paid sick leave
  • Public health leaders
  • AARP
  • State Legislators 

WHEN:      Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: The rally will be live streamed on Facebook in Spanish on the @ElCentrodeIgualdadyDerechos page and in English on the @NMWFP and @OLENewmexico pages

The rally was organized by Center for Civic Policy, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, New Mexico Center on Law & Poverty, New Mexico Working Families Party, New Mexico Voices for Children, OLÉ, Somos Un Pueblo Unido and United Food and Commercial Workers.  

Action Alert: NM workers need paid sick leave!

Please call or email members of the committee TODAY and urge them to support paid sick leave!

About half of all workers in New Mexico lack paid sick leave. They have to either go to work sick or lose wages or risk losing their jobs to care for themselves or a loved one. 

HB37 would ensure that employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. 

HB37 is scheduled to be heard tomorrow in the House Labor, Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committee. 

You could share a personal story about why you and other workers need paid time off when you are sick. You could also say or write something like this: “I urge the Representative to support HB37 for paid sick leave. No one should have to choose between their health and their paycheck, but for the roughly half of all New Mexico workers who lack paid sick leave, this is the reality.”

You may also comment during the online hearing TOMORROW. Go to this Zoom link (passcode: 630659) and type your comments in via the “chat” function at the bottom of the screen. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 2 pm.

Representatives’ contact information

  • Representative Eliseo Lee Alcon (Chair): (505) 986-4416; eliseo.alcon@nmlegis.gov
  • Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero (Vice Chair): (505) 986-4248; pat.roybalcaballero@nmlegis.gov
  • Representative Karen C. Bash: (505) 986-4210; karen.bash@nmlegis.gov
  • Representative Rachel A. Black: (505) 986-4467; rachel.black@nmlegis.gov
  • Representative Miguel P. Garcia: (505) 986-4844; miguel.garcia@nmlegis.gov
  • Representative Joshua Hernandez: joshua.hernandez@nmlegis.gov
  • Representative Angelica Rubio: (505) 986-4227; angelica.rubio@nmlegis.gov
  • Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton: (505) 986-4780; sheryl.stapleton@nmlegis.gov
  • Representative Luis M. Terrazas: luis.terrazas@nmlegis.gov

Yazzie plaintiffs ask court to order state to provide students computers and internet access

SANTA FE—Yazzie plaintiffs in the landmark Yazzie/Martinez education lawsuit asked the First Judicial District Court today to order the State of New Mexico to provide computers and high-speed internet access to the thousands of “at-risk” students who lack these necessary tools for remote learning. 

“Many children in New Mexico, especially those in rural districts and districts serving predominantly Native American students, don’t have computers or high-speed internet access and have been effectively denied access to public education since the pandemic started, worsening existing education inequities,” said Melissa Candelaria, a senior attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, which represents the Yazzie plaintiffs.

In 2018, in the Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico lawsuit, the court ordered the state to provide a sufficient education to all public school students.

The state was required to immediately direct resources to remedy the failures in its education system, because the court recognized students—especially Native students, English language learners, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities—would be irreparably harmed if the state did not act swiftly. 

The court noted that access to technology, including computers and related infrastructure, is essential to a sufficient education.  

An estimated 23 percent of the New Mexico population lacks broadband internet service. An estimated 80 percent of Native Americans living on tribal lands in New Mexico do not have internet services at all. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of access has been catastrophic for far too many New Mexican families because of the state’s failure to address the technology gaps,”  said Alisa Diehl, a senior attorney with the Center. “The state has to be accountable to New Mexico’s students and families and make access to their education a priority.”

Diehl continued, “Had the state complied with the 2018 court order, many more students would be able to access remote learning right now. Unfortunately, the state has spent its time and resources trying to dismiss the lawsuit. Nine months into the pandemic, too many students have received little to no education at all. This is utterly unacceptable. The state needs to take action immediately to make sure New Mexico’s students get the education they need and deserve.”

The motion can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Yazzie-Tech-Motion-With-Exhibits-1-6-Final.2020-12-15.pdf

The final ruling in the lawsuit can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/D-101-CV-2014-00793-Final-Judgment-and-Order-NCJ-1.pdf

Attorneys for the Yazzie plaintiffs include Melissa Candelaria, Alisa Diehl of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Preston Sanchez of ACLU-NM, and Dan Yohalem.

MEDIA ADVISORY Virtual rally on Albuquerque paid time off bill tomorrow

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—New Mexico State Legislators will join community organizations and allies to discuss Albuquerque’s proposed paid time off bill introduced by Albuquerque City Councilors Lan Sena and Pat Davis. Workers will share why having paid time off is crucial for their health and safety and the health of their families. Legislators will discuss the importance of paid sick leave and paid time off for hardworking families in New Mexico.

WHAT:      
Albuquerque Paid Time Off Virtual Rally

WHO:        
Supporters for Albuquerque Paid Time
City Councilor Lan Sena 
Senator Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez
Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino
Senator Andrés Romero
Representative Angelica Rubio
Representative Christine Trujillo
Representative Liz Thomson.

WHEN:      
Thursday, November 5, 2020 at 11:00 a.m.

WHERE:     
https://www.facebook.com/events/2801231766788399/

The rally was organized by Center for Civic Policy, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, Enlace Comunitario, New Mexico Center on Law & Poverty, New Mexico Working Families Party, New Mexico Voices for Children, and OLÉ.

Bernalillo County paid leave law goes into effect       

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—An ordinance requiring employers in the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County to provide workers paid leave goes into effect today. The law will help alleviate the serious challenges many workers face when forced to choose between a paycheck and the health of their families and community. 

Its implementation comes late for many working families who have needed paid time off to keep themselves and the community healthy before and during the ongoing pandemic. 

Bernalillo County’s Employee Wellness Act applies to any worker in the unincorporated areas of the county employed at least 56 hours per year by an employer with two or more employees. Workers can earn up to 28 hours of paid time off per year. Employees of larger employers will eventually be able to earn up to 56 hours of paid leave per year. The ordinance phases those additional hours in over the next two years.

The Bernalillo County Commission passed the ordinance in August 2019 after hours of public comment by workers and community members. The Commission delayed its implementation until today.

Details on the ordinance can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/factsheet-bernco-pto-ordinance-09-30-2020/

The following are reactions from workers and workers’ rights advocates.

Marian Méndez Cera, El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos Worker Rights Organizer
“Low-wage and immigrant workers have been working through the pandemic and kept our community running. By having paid time off, we are taking care of the most integral part of our economy, our workers. As we collectively face these challenges, it has become clear how interconnected we all are and it has shown that all workers are essential. Therefore, not only should paid sick leave be a fundamental human right so no worker has to make the decision of missing a day’s pay to tend to their health, but it should be part of our state’s public health plan to curb the spread of COVID-19.”

Eric Griego, NM Working Families State Director 
“During this difficult time when essential workers are struggling to survive and stay healthy, we hope our state and local leaders take their lead from the people on the front lines, not corporate lobbyists. The county ordinance provides minimal leave to those risking their own health to keep our economy going, and the current law should be improved, not delayed or diminished.”

Andrea Serrano, Organizers in the Land of Enchantment (OLÉ) Executive Director 
“We are happy that the County Commission has chosen not to further delay the implementation of the Bernalillo County paid time off ordinance. This ordinance will provide some relief for workers, however, this bill only covers the unincorporated parts of Bernalillo County, leaving out the majority of the population in the metropolitan area. The reality is all workers need paid sick leave—especially now. COVID-19 has hit our communities of color hard and Bernalillo County’s hardworking families need and deserve paid sick leave.The City of Albuquerque and the State of New Mexico need to step up and focus on a strong paid sick leave bill that will incorporate every worker, not just the few.”

Stephanie Welch, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Workers’ Rights Director
“No one should have to choose between a paycheck and their health and safety. The Bernalillo County ordinance guarantees some paid time off for some workers. This is a start. All New Mexicans need the security of knowing they can take time off from work to care for themselves or their families and still get paid.”

Former owners of Kellys Brew Pub to pay servers $1,375,000 to settle wage theft lawsuit

ALBUQUERQUE—After a public hearing today, a court approved a class action settlement agreement that requires the former owners of Kellys Brew Pub and Restaurant to pay servers over a million dollars. Second Judicial District Court Judge Benjamin Chavez approved the settlement. 

The judge ruled in July 2019 that the former owners of Kellys violated Albuquerque’s minimum wage ordinance.

The former owners will pay one million of the agreed upon amount within 30 days. All parties agreed to additional time for the former owners to pay the remaining $375,000 and for the plaintiffs to investigate the former owners’ assets.

“This is money that should have been in our hands in the first place. It was ours. We earned it,” said Bianca Garcia, a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “If that money had never been taken from us, it could have made differences in where some of us are today. Those funds may have helped someone pay off a student loan. Buy a car. Move to a better situation. Support a family. But it was deliberately kept from us. We will continue to fight for what is rightfully ours.”

Under Albuquerque’s minimum wage ordinance, if employers fail to pay workers their full wage, they must pay triple the wages that were withheld as well as attorneys’ fees. The business and the business owners, executives, and officers can be liable. 

In his July 2019 ruling, Judge Chavez determined that because Kellys failed to follow the rules for paying the tipped minimum wage, the former owners owed their employees the full minimum wage for those hours worked. 

Sixteen servers, represented by Youtz & Valdez, P.C. and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, brought the class action lawsuit, Atyani v. Bonfantine, in April 2016 on behalf of about 150 former servers who worked at Kellys from 2013 to 2016. The lawsuit contends that after city voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative in 2012 raising the Albuquerque minimum wage, Dennis and Janice Bonfantine “settled on an unlawful response to the wage increase: servers would pay for it themselves, out of their tips.” 

“Workers have the right to a fair and legal wage. This includes people who work for tips” said Stephanie Welch, director of workers’ rights at the Center. “Albuquerque has a strong law that holds employers accountable, whether or not there is a pandemic. Employers should know that if they don’t pay their employees a legal wage, they can be sued and end up paying much more in damages than if they had just paid their employees fairly.”

Kellys required servers to pay their employers cash each shift, calculated at two percent of their total daily sales, plus three dollars per hour they worked on the clock. After making these required payments to their employer, servers sometimes owed more in cash than they had actually earned in cash tips during the shift. When this happened, servers were required to pay the difference from their wallets or their paychecks. 

To defend against these claims, the Bonfantines argued that the Albuquerque minimum wage was invalid because it was increased through a voter initiative that put a summary of the wage increase on the 2012 ballot rather than the entire ordinance. In May 2017, the Second District Court rejected this argument, ruling that any challenge to how the 2012 election was conducted must have been made right after the election.

“We encourage every employee who is a victim of wage theft to come forward,” said Shane Youtz, an attorney at Youtz & Valdez, P.C. “You deserve to collect every dollar you worked for and are owed.“

Attorneys on the case are Stephanie Welch and Sovereign Hager of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Shane Youtz and James Montalbano of Youtz & Valdez, P.C.

The settlement agreement approved today can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/atyani-v-bonfantine-settlement-agreement-final-and-approved-2020-09-29/

The order on Atyani v. Bonfantine can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/case-law-summary-judgement-order-atyani-v-bonfantine-2019-07-12/

The Atyani v. Bonfantine complaint can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/complaint-kellys-final-2016-04-28-filed

Melissa Candelaria joins Education team

By Maria Archuleta

I spoke with New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty’s new senior education attorney, Melissa Candelaria, about the roots of her work in social justice. Melissa has years of legal, policy, and advocacy experience. She serves as an Oversight Commissioner for the 19 Pueblos District and is a citizen of the Pueblo of San Felipe. Melissa has worked for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and for federal and state agencies, as well as non-profit organizations. She attended law school at UNM and received her undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College. This interview has been edited and condensed.

How did your upbringing influence your work?

I was born and raised in San Felipe Pueblo. My grandfathers and grandmothers and parents instilled me with core values of giving back to the community with the skills and gifts we have been blessed with by the Creator. They taught us to be generous in spirit and to do our part to make this world more conscious, caring, and compassionate. 

As Native young people, we were encouraged to embrace all that makes us special and unique and to treasure our shared language, culture, and traditions. My community understood that a Western education would enable us to participate and influence the larger community outside of the Pueblo, and I also knew I wanted to go away for college. I have always been interested in seeing and learning new things. 

Dartmouth was definitely a culture shock. So many of my peers went to elite prep schools, and I graduated from Bernalillo High School. I found my own way and learned to trust myself as a capable person and to excel academically in a competitive environment. I knew that my background made me very unique in this setting and helped me to synthesize the best of both worlds. 

Were you always interested in shaking up the education system?

Actually, yes. My undergraduate degree is in sociology and I minored in education. In public school, I didn’t see a diversity of students or teachers, the curricula left out the history and culture of indigenous peoples, and there was no Native language instruction at all. 

In college, I thought I was going to open my own charter school. I was very much interested in systemic change and creating a paradigm shift in education. I knew education opportunities for children of color, including more Native teachers in the classroom, was a way to make those changes. 

When I came back from college, I started working at a Native American prep school that has since closed. But my path changed, and I was drawn to assist tribal governments more broadly and worked on health and social services, development, sovereignty, and intergovernmental relations, but I always had special focus on education. 

What made you decide to become a lawyer?

Everybody already thought I was a lawyer. 

I had been working on public policy issues with the tribes and knew that having a legal background and skills would allow me to be a more effective advocate. It helped me empower individuals and communities to be successful and thrive. It goes back to my core values of giving back and serving others unconditionally and unselfishly. 

Having a law degree also made it possible to be an advocate at the national level. It was exciting to work on national public policy like the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act that impacted all of Indian country. I also had the privilege of working on state legislation like the Indian Education Act, which if implemented with the Yazzie/Martinez case would positively transform and further revolutionize education opportunities for our Native students. 

What do you hope to accomplish next?   

I approach my work with my heart. There is so much that still needs to be addressed for Native people and communities of color. The challenge is huge, but we cannot be discouraged by the enormity of the challenge.

I’m excited to be at the Center and to push for equitable education for all children. They deserve the opportunity to succeed. I’m very fortunate to and honored to work with the social justice champions here.