New Mexico labor focuses on 2008 elections

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — From the opening remarks by New Mexico AFL-CIO President Christine Trujillo to the speeches of various dignitaries at the state labor federation’s biannual convention here, June 15-16, it’s clear the labor movement is readying for the 2008 elections.

Outstanding presentations were made by two of the many convention participants: Joe Shirley, president of the Navajo Nation, and Dr. Irasema Garza, national political director of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Shirley, after describing a number of positive joint campaigns and initiatives by the New Mexico Federation of Labor and the Navajo Nation, declared his commitment to ongoing solidarity between the two groups. Referring to the 2008 election campaign, he said, “Working as a team, we can make things happen.”

Garza said Working America’s goal is organizing nonunion working people. She called it a massive effort to “reach the mass, develop the working class, and then to kick ass.”

She described the success the group has had in states like Ohio, where, based on common working-class issues such as health care and jobs, canvassers knocked on doors and found a very receptive audience. In three out of four contacts, the canvassers were able to sign people up into the program.

Individuals who sign up for Working America become eligible to participate in all the mobilization efforts of the organization, she said. Based on the results of the 2006 elections in the Midwest, the group decided to expand the program to the Southwest.

As an indication of labor’s political support for Working America, the Iron Workers union presented a $10,000 check to the group.

Many politicians addressed the convention, including Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, Attorney General Gary King, State Treasurer James Lewis and Rep. Tom Udall.

Udall called for strengthening collective bargaining nationwide. He got a standing ovation when he concluded, referring to the war in Iraq, “It is time for the troops to come home!”