Talon News - Good Local News




August 24, 2018

Burly Cain.


( PART 2 ) - continued from 8/10 TALON

by David Edward Albright, TALON

At the time for public input, with each allowed three minutes to speak, Chairman McDaniel said, "I want to tell everyone I appreciate your enthusiasm on both sides---this is a very emotionally-charged issue that we're discussing and we don't have to agree to get along, but we do respectfully ask you---to be respectful".

Sammie Atticy said, "I believe that the 'right to work' is a great detriment to our Navajo people...and you know that we deal on a daily basis with discrimination." Yvonne Hawpe, National Air Traffic Controllers Association from Albuquerque, said, "Americans for Prosperity come out to our communities and they pay people fifty dollars or they buy them dinner, they give them a T-shirt---that's what they've been doing all over the state---so it looks like people from the community are supporting them, when in fact that's not always the case." Major applause!

Burly Cain, State Director of Americans for Properity said, "I speak on behalf of 25,000 supporting volunteers...and I implore you to vote yes and pass this Ordinance...the Supreme Court has ruled to protect workers, they found that First Amendment rights of 'forced-dues payers' were being violated in the union." Quoting Thomas Jefferson, he said, "To compel man to furnish contribution of money for the propagation of opinions to which he disbelieves and abhors is simply tryrannical." "Progressive have been working to remove jobs here in San Juan---for some time---good-paying jobs...they're the ones here today supporting the unions---keep that in mind---site selectors state that the lack of right to work is the reason they're not bringing jobs here", he said. "Every state around you protects all public and private workers...that's something you should consider." Rousing applause ensued.

Tony Schmitz of Bloomfield said, "My support of 'Right to Work' comes from a moral basis; consent is one of the most important building blocks to a free society---without consent, taking someone's property becomes theft, theft becomes extortion and entering someone's property becomes trespassing." He asked for a raise of hands of those who support 'Right to Work'. "It is grass-roots," he said, after many raised their hands followed by applause. Shavonda Hill said, "I remember as a young girl being threatened if there was going to be a strike and being part of the union and being told if I crossed the union lines, my car would get smashed...that was 35 years ago and maybe it's not that way anymore...but it is all about choice." She said the union did not help protect her job when she became pregnant and that her son should not be forced to join the union to work at Albertsons.

President of United Food and Commercial Workers in New Mexico, Greg Frazier from Albuquerque, said, "I have just over 400 members in your County---I would just like to say about courtesy clerks---you can get health coverage for just five dollars a week and get paid overtime after they work over eight hours and they are guaranteed to work hours as scheduled." He said Missouri, by way of petition, was expected to overturn 'Right to Work' law---that same evening. "You're being asked to vote on something that technically---even the Attorney General---already ruled that it's un-Constitutional for a county commissioner to make such decisions", he said, based on the issue of 'Home Rule'.

Clyde Gonzales, Business Agent for UFCW Local 1564 Northern New Mexico, representing four union stores in Farmington and Aztec, said, "His workers oppose 'Right to Work'...and anybody getting a free ride---'Right to Work' is wrong for New Mexico---I urge you to vote it down." Larry Sontag of Albuquerque said, "Contrary to what some have said, I am a small business owner...and I'm excited that this is going on around the state, which is what you're doing---considering passing a 'Right to Work' Ordinance. "Our unemployment rate has continuously been one of the worst in the nation...let's try something new---I encourage you to continue with this bold leadership." Cynthia Wagner, owner with her husband of Largo Tank and Equipment, said, "Most of our employees are Native Americans; we are not a union shop---we treat all of our employees with utmost respect because they are good people, and if there's a problem getting to work, we work with them." As a teacher for 18 years, she decided not to join the NEA, not caring for their platform because it went against her religious views.

Chris Saavedra of Albuquerque said, "All this is a dirty political agenda, influenced by highly-funded, out-of-state special-interest groups---like the Americans for Prosperity---all in the false name of economic development." His research of their website showed that they send people to two-day boot camps to teach them how to speak in front of county commissioners. He went on to accuse Brent Yessin, the Florida attorney/consultant, of being funded by the American for Prosperity and the Koch brothers.

Rhonda Stockert countered Saavedra's claim, stating, "I do want to promise you, I have not been sent anywhere to learn how to speak here today---this is coming from my heart." Growing up in Las Vegas, she said, "Unions will shut you down in a heartbeat...hotels lose a lot of income when they are shut down."

Helen Shay yielded her time---showing a video featuring Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, opposing the Ordinance. States with 'Right to Work' laws make 12.2 % less in wages and they're less likely to have health insurance, higher poverty, infant mortality, less investment in education and higher workplace fatalities, he asserted. He said their purpose was to destroy unions and that their corporate sponsors don't want higher wages.

Linda Corwin of Bloomfield, who worked non-union and encountered stagnating wages, no health or retirement benfits then went to new unionized employment, said, "My wages went up consistently, got good health benefits and good retirement, so unions are important to speak for the little person; otherwise, the corporations just divide and conquer." Les Hill, Business Agent for Laborers Local 16, said, "The members and I are here to oppose the 'Right to Work'---I'm asking the Commissioners---please do not approve this Ordinance." Chad Yokoyama, representing Smart Union for sheetmetal workers, who also represent Red Apple Transit in Farmington, said, "The only reason my dad was able to get the fair pay he deserved was because of the union." He suggested everyone watch the movie, 'Norma Rae', to find out what it was really like before unions. "People have died for what we have...to pass something like this would be like spitting in my dad's face", he said. Leo Sullivan said, "First, on the matter of the law, the Attorney General says you don't have the authority to do this, the state does, not the commission." Aztec Mayor, Victor Snover, said, "Just doing some very basic research, the top ten states in wages, pensions are all union; the bottom ten states---anyone want to say it with me---right to work." These laws "Force people to take lower wages", he said, because they slowly bust the unions.

Drew Degner, local business owner, said, "Vote yes for this in order to gain more opportunity, more businesses in San Juan County---to help grow and be business-friendly." He said the surrounding states have adopted this law and "Are prospering". Clayton Benally said, "I experienced better pay and benefits working under a union contract." He questioned the County looking at this issue when it's been addressed at the State level and he asked those opposed to stand. Robert Sandoval said, "Up until about six years old I didn't know a word of English...went to Fort Lewis College, the service, served my union and have been there as a millwright journeyman...and have been able to travel throughout the United States with my union."

Regina Scheffing of Farmington said, "I can assure you I have not been paid, but I did get a free T-shirt...this is personal, as young worker I had to be a member of a union." She didn't understand it then and didn't like the Teamsters taking money out of her husband's paycheck; she said, "When he was laid off we still had dues to pay...I think this is mostly about freedom, freedom of choice."

Dr. Joe Shirley Jr., former Navajo Nation President said, "I want to speak up for my union brothers and sisters today, many of whom are Navajo, working for the mines, the building trades...union to me simply means the workforce sticking up for themselves, for a safe work environment, better wages, better benefits, training and certainly respect." "Often times workers are afraid to speak up at the workplace, although they may be abused or mistreated...unions give them the voice to speak out."

Laura Marshall said, "I'm here as a mother and a small business owner to speak against this measure...if it had not been for our labor union...we would have had to work three nights a week." She argued that unions mean people have more money, thus, they can better support small business. Teacher, retired postal worker and local Democratic Party leader for Indivisible San Juan, Steve Clarke said, "I saw first-hand what a union can do for you...we were often targeted by a heavy-handed management system at the post office to go faster, faster, faster and to give up your half-hour unpaid lunch and two ten-minute breaks...because the main cost is labor." Workers faced threat of being fired when they complained or were injured. It was unions that fought for the 40-hour work week, the eight-hour workday, saftey and not having children working in the mines and not having people mangled by machinery, he asserted.

Teacher Gayle Davis, who chose not to be in the union, said, "I'm very, very grateful that my choice was respected." Robert Davis, who worked as a union member for 13 years and non-union for 27 years, said, "I've seen both sides...but today I'm here to support jobs for San Juan County."

One hour, forty-three minutes into the hearing a short break was given and the meeting resumed with Christina Aspaas, an electrician at the power plant stating, "I was taught to be respectful...but a couple months ago I was terminated and my job was traded away for a $250 dollar bottle of Scotch...and without my union representation I wouldn't be standing here, whole and maintaining my position...so I say please do not vote for this." Carpenter's Union representative, Juan Carlos Torres, said, "Our union provides 180 different fields of training...with closing of mines and talk of tourism, with our livable wage it makes it easy for us to travel, so if this Ordinance does pass, we'll be pushing for our tourist dollars to go to other areas." Meatcutters Union member, Joe Lopez, said, "My security and my wife's security is completely sealed for the rest of our lives...and I owe all that to the union." He also mentioned the Koch brothers as party to sponsoring the measure. Leslie John, Navajo Mine worker for 25 years, said, "Worker freedom is freedom from protection of being terminated for just cause." Spontaneous applause.

Warren Unsicker, CEO of Four Corners Economic Development, said, "Site selectors and companies say the workforce is crucial...and some sort of 'Right to Work' legislation is important to them...so it does put us at an unfortunate disadvantage, with respect to the surrounding states that are right to work." Business owner, Tom King, said, "We spend thousands of dollars per employee on safety, training---we offer health insurance...retirement-matching and end of year profit-sharing...but we're here today to give the individual a choice...maybe it will bring more jobs to our County."

Sheriff's Helicopter pilot, Shawn Johnson, said when working for a previous employer, as a union member not by choice, "I didn't want any part of the union, but money was taken out anyway and I don't see how that's fair." Jason Vaillancourt of Albuquerque played a video supporting the Ordinance.

Michael Moss, President of Central Consolidated Education Association Union, said, "We have 500 members and nobody has to join the union...we have over 50% of the employees signed up because we represent those employees." "The union gives us a voice ...and 'united we bargain, divided we pay'." Twenty-two year Safeway employee, Louise Stophill, said, "I raised my kids on my salary, we have insurance---I didn't have to worry." When she got sick with a immune disorder the union insurance helped her through from November to February last year.

Jordy Mayer, Las Vegas, Nevada resident and volunteer for Americans for Prosperity, said, "I'm doing this because I care...and I'm not getting paid a single cent...I have my own record label, nobody is paying me...you gotta work hard, we have choices, we have opportunities here...I had no mentor and no father."

Kevin Walker said, "Contrary to what people might think wearing this red shirt, I'm pro-union, but I'm also an individual...we heard great stories of what the unions have done, but the idea that these people would not voluntarily pay their union dues...is crazy. Sharon Lopez, said, "I believe strongly in favor of the union." Benson Bitsui, against the Ordinance, mentioned the poor pay and lack of benefits offered by Walmart.

Nate Banks spoke in favor of the Ordinance. Lupe Keeler, Safeway employee, will retire in two years, crediting the union for her success in life. Robert Aubert (spelling?) spoke against it. Shane Valentine, who's worked for unionized companies and Walmart, spoke against the proposal. Christopher Frank, with the Carpenters Union, expressed his disfavor with the Ordinance.

Pro-Ordinance closing comments were made by Carla Sonntag, Brent Yessin, who said when asked by a Commissioner, "Every trip I've made here has been on my dime, I've not submittted one expense report or one billing hour of time". Someone in the room yelled out, "Liar, liar." The gavel went down to quiet the crowd.

Anti-Ordinance spokesperson, E.M.P. Schildmeyer, said of the Sonntag's organization, The New Mexico Business Coalition, "They're a 501C4...they expend funds to influence political events, elections...where do they get their money---I checked it out---they have dues just like the unions." Her comments were met with oohs and awes."I think this is just a misguided proposition." Commissioner Crowley asked for those who would voluntarily paid their union dues to stand. Many stood. Commissioner Beckstead asked Benson Bitsui to clarify the Right to Work Clause of the Navajo Nation.

Each Commisssioner spoke passionately about how they would base their vote. With Commissioner Charley opposed, the vote was 4 to 1 in favor of the Ordinance, which goes into effect in 30 days.

Ordinance No. 102, states the "intent is to provide that no employee covered by the National Labor Relations Act need join or pay dues to a union, or refrain from joining a union, as a condition of employment; and provide certain penalties for violation of those employment rights." The full Ordinance is posted on the County website.


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