THURS: Albuquerque Starbucks workers partake in national strike for union rights, + More
Albuquerque Starbucks workers partake in national strike for union rights - By Megan Gleason,Source New Mexico
At an Albuquerque Starbucks normally packed with customers looking for a morning jolt, one single car crept through the drive-through. Another woman who drove up to get her coffee decided to go somewhere else.
Starbucks workers and supporters picketed in front of the Old Town location off Interstate 40 and Rio Grande Blvd. on Wednesday as part of a national strike pushing for union rights and better working conditions.
This comes amid allegations of anti-union action and sentiments from Starbucks around the nation. Over 250 stores in the U.S. have voted to unionize. The Albuquerque Old Town location is the first and only store in New Mexico to successfully pass a vote to unionize.
Madz Dazzo is a barista working at the Albuquerque location and a leader in the store’s unionization process. She said since the vote to unionize passed the National Labor Relations Board about half a year ago, workers have been struggling with disciplinary actions in the workplace.
The store has yet to begin the bargaining process too.
Instead, she said management is writing workers up, including herself, for things they normally wouldn’t be punished for, like being a few minutes late to work or forgetting to do a COVID check. Workers supporting the union have seen their hours cut as well, she said, forcing people to get second jobs to support themselves.
Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull said the company denies allegations of union busting and has honored the National Labor Relations Board process.
“To the extent claims have been brought against Starbucks for violation of labor laws, the company strongly denies any wrongdoing and has committed to exercising its right to defend itself,” Trull said via email.
Starbucks Workers United, a national collective helping stores unionize, is pursuing multiple lawsuits against the coffee company, which the company is actively fighting.
Tiffany Martinez is a shift supervisor at the Albuquerque Old Town location. She said management has remarked they cut hours because the workers aren’t utilizing their time well, which she denied. Martinez said wait times at this location have shot up due to the lack of people working at a given time.
“On a daily basis, we struggle with the amount of people that we have,” Martinez said.
She said workers will likely suffer more negative consequences from management after this strike. “I’m sure they’re gonna be looking for reasons to write people up,” she said.
Martinez said it’s nice to know that New Mexico workers aren’t the only ones striking on Wednesday because they’re struggling to get better working conditions. “Other partners are out there, feeling the same thing that we are,” she said.
There are more than 100 stores with workers on strike on Wednesday, according to Starbucks Workers United. However, Trull said Starbucks hasn’t seen that number reflected in operations and nearly every store still remains open for customers.
“Rather than publicizing rallies and protests, we encourage Workers United to live up to their obligations by responding to our proposed sessions and meeting us in-person to move the good faith bargaining process forward,” Trull said.
Dazzo said Starbucks has been causing issues of its own at the table. She brought up an instance where company officials walked out of a bargaining session just minutes after it started. Workers have also said they believe the company has deliberately stalled some bargaining sessions and processes.
At one point during the Albuquerque strike, a woman who had just parked in front of the Starbucks asked the picketing workers if the location was unionized. Dazzo and Martinez told her yes but working conditions were still bad, and the woman decided not to get coffee from there after all.
As Martinez and Dazzo held up their pro-union signs off of the busy street in front of the store, passing cars honked in support. They think they’ve been deterring people from the store all morning on Wednesday.
A SLOW-TO-START BARGAINING PROCESS
The unionization process for the New Mexico location has been slow-moving. The National Labor Relations Board counted the ballots in favor of unionization six months ago, but the bargaining process still hasn’t started.
Trull said it can’t start at that location until Starbucks Workers United assigns a union representative. Trull added that there are over 50 stores around the county that also can’t start the process for the same reason.
Naomi Martinez is a volunteer organizer with Starbucks Workers United. She said the board hadn’t heard about any request for the organization to assign a representative to the Albuquerque location. She added that at her own store, there’s a point person for bargaining who does the same for other locations in the region too.
She said now that the collective knows about Starbucks’ representative stipulation, hopefully a bargaining process can start soon. She said Workers United will be “really pushing” for the New Mexico store to get a bargaining date after the national strike on Wednesday.
“Now that we have heard this new message about getting a bargaining representative for the Albuquerque store, I’m hoping that at least we can present them with this false request that they’re wanting, so that we could get the bargaining going there,” she said.
Trull said Starbucks Workers United has also refused to confirm bargaining session dates at other stores until Starbucks agrees to hybrid bargaining.
“Their unilateral insistence on preconditions to bargaining, including hybrid bargaining, is both unlawful and has prevented bargaining from moving forward at many tables,” he said.
Naomi Martinez said the company won’t admit to its many wrongdoings. She said it’s not surprising to hear that they refute anti-union allegations against them.
“Pretty empty words from my perspective, as someone who is already experiencing that for months now,” she said. “They’re never going to admit fault.”
Attorneys claim email sent by ‘Rust’ ex-prosecutor suggests political motive - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News
A new motion filed by Alec Baldwin’s attorneys Tuesday suggests that ex-prosecutor Andrea Reeb planned to use her role in the “Rust” shooting case to advance her political career.
As the Albuquerque Journal reports, attorneys pointed to a report from the New York Times centered around a private email the former special prosecutor sent in June –– suggesting that the high-profile post could help her bid for the state House of Representatives.
Reeb was named special prosecutor back in August, about three months before the Clovis Republican won her House seat.
Reeb said her decision to take the job of special prosecutor was “in no way politically motivated” and had no influence on her election to the state Legislature.
She has since stepped away as special prosecutor against Alec Baldwin on March 14.
Baldwin was holding a gun that discharged on the “Rust” movie set on Oct. 21, 2021, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
Registration is open for state’s free summer tutoring - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News
Amid persistently low math and literacy test scores, New Mexico’s Public Education Department is offering free online summer tutoring in both subjects.
The Albuquerque Journal reports the state is accepting up to 500 students each for early literacy classes and 6th grade math.
Registration is open and classes are filling quickly. The math classes are about half full and there are far fewer slots left in the literacy courses.
PED is aiming to maintain a ratio of five students to each tutor, though is still calling for math tutors on its website.
The online tutoring will take place three times a week for 10 weeks beginning next Tuesday.
Affirmative consent proposal dies on final day in Santa Fe - By Megan Taros,Source New Mexico
On the penultimate day of the Legislative session, HB 43, which would’ve made affirmative consent the standard for teaching consent in public schools, sat as the final item on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda.
The bill sailed through its previous committees and garnered a commanding House floor vote only to languish in the judiciary committee for a little more than a month. The committee was its final hurdle before a Senate floor vote.
The committee ran out of time and no longer had a quorum when it recessed. Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces), the chair who controls the schedule for the committee, was one of the members that left in the middle of the meeting.
Advocates for the bill were told the committee would return after the Senate floor session Fri., March 17 to wrap up its agenda, but never did. They did not get an explanation as to why.
“My expectation certainly was not that it would be scheduled before the last day,” said Alexandria Taylor, executive director of New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. “I don’t think there’s anything controversial about the bill that it should sit in committee for 30 days until it dies.”
The bill has been trying to make its way through the Legislature since 2019. That year it died after a Senate floor vote. Last year it was ruled not germain to a 30-day Legislative session.
Rep. Liz Thomson (D-Albuquerque) said she was disappointed, but would try to get the bill on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s priorities in 2024, a 30-day session, or reintroduce it in 2025.
Thomson encouraged lawmakers to educate themselves on the sexual violence women encounter in their lives.
“It amazes me how often men don’t understand how often women get harassed and assaulted,” Thomson said. “There are some who think rape and assault is the stranger breaking in through an open window, but it’s not that.”
While it’s still unclear why the bill was scheduled in its final committee, as the last agenda item, on the final day lawmakers met in that setting, Thomson said other factors muddied debate. She said disinformation about the bill from the right-wing created a false image about its intent. The bill is not about encouraging students to have sex, nor would it create punishments for people who couldn’t prove the obtained affirmative consent, Thomson said. She said not passing the measure sends the message that not receiving affirmative consent is acceptable. She cited a story about a meeting she had with a man who said the bill was needed because when he was growing up, boys would often talk about how to get girls drunk so they could have sex with them.
“I believe that kind of behavior still exists,” she said.
Thomson said refusing to talk to young people about sex would not stop them from having sex and it will only leave them vulnerable if they’re uninformed about how to properly ask for consent.
Supporters of the bill said they received broad support that has grown over time, especially from students, many of whom have been at the forefront testifying in favor of the bill, writing letters and leading marches. They did not anticipate such a big fight to get the bill heard.
Taylor said she commended those students for showing up to try to affect change.
“They can’t vote for the most part, they can’t get elected for the most part, they can’t make their own policies so they rely on adults to do that,” she said. “And we weren’t able to get this done for them.”
Jess Clark, director of sexual violence prevention at New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said that while some students have access to affirmative-consent education, as long as it is not a standard across the state, that access won’t be equitable.
But this isn’t the end of the road, he said.
“We will be back, with an even larger coalition,” Clark said. “It is beyond disappointing that students’ access to this education will continue to be dependent on where they live, and we will keep working to change that.”
Study finds Latinos at higher risk of food insecurity than white counterparts – Astrid Galvan, Axios Latino
Latinos and Black American adults are at a much higher risk of experiencing food insecurity than their white counterparts, according a new study by the Urban Institute.
Axios Latino reports sky-high food price inflation has added financial hardship for families across the country, especially Latinos. That hardship is likely to be exacerbated now that pandemic-era enhanced benefits have ended.
The study, published this week, is based on annual surveys of at least 7,500 people in the U.S. — 1,555 of whom identify as Hispanic or Latino — conducted each December from 2019 to 2022.
According to the study, the shares of Hispanic and Black respondents who reported food insecurity last year were about 50% higher than the share of white adults who reported food insecurity.
Also, 58% of Hispanic respondents in the Urban Institute survey in 2022 said they had reduced the amount of food they bought, compared to 49% of white respondents, the study found. That suggests Hispanic families were less able to absorb the surging costs of food, the study's authors write.
The researchers also found that Hispanic adults were more likely than their white counterparts to report last year dipping into savings (50.5%) or increasing credit card debt (nearly 44%) to pay for higher food costs.
The federal government last month ended pandemic-era increases in the amount of money given to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.
About 23% (or five million) of SNAP recipients have a Hispanic head of household, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), which analyzed 2021 American Community Survey data. The center said about 4 million Hispanic households were expected to lose the boosted assistance.
When fighting hunger, "the first line of the defense is typically the SNAP program, which is difficult to hear considering the erosion of emergency allotments," says study author Kassandra Martinchek, a research associate at the Urban Institute.
Immigrant or mixed-status families may be afraid to access public benefits like the child tax credit, which could contribute to the disproportionate rates of food insecurity among Latinos, says Poonam Gupta, also a research associate at the institute.
"We also have qualitative evidence that things like language barriers, lack of culturally appropriate food is a barrier to Latinx families" accessing food assistance, Gupta adds.
Organizations such as the Christian advocacy group Bread for the World are fighting to reduce hunger, says Marco Grimaldo, a strategist for Latino communities. Grimaldo works with religious leaders across the country, including many in charge of churches that also provide food assistance, to learn the needs of Hispanic families which he says vary greatly depending on factors such as educational attainment, immigration status and how long individuals have been in the U.S.
Grimaldo also says the government should change existing policies to allow legal permanent residents to access public benefits (they currently have to wait five years to do so).
The White House on Friday will host a virtual conference on hunger, nutrition and health as part of an ongoing initiative to combat food insecurity.
Former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly 'put others first' - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press
Former Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, who pushed ambitious projects that included purchasing a coal mine, building an aerial tram into the Grand Canyon and reaching a water rights settlement with Arizona, has died.
Shelly died Wednesday morning at a medical center in Gallup, New Mexico, after a long illness and with family by his side, said family spokesman Deswood Tome. Shelly was 75.
Shelly took over as president on the vast reservation in January 2011 after serving one term as vice president under Joe Shirley Jr. He lost a re-election bid in 2014, but the Navajo Nation Supreme Court extended his time in office as it was deciding a Navajo language fluency issue involving another presidential candidate.
Shelly's family thanked Navajos for their support Wednesday as they mourned "the loss of a man who put others first."
"When he was born, he was told by elders that he would be a great leader," they said in a statement to The Associated Press. "He fulfilled that legacy. By being a strong husband and father, he showed us to put the importance of the people first."
Shelly had an energetic nature, waking up well before dawn, and was known for his off-the-cuff remarks yet heartfelt speeches.
The things he counted as successes as ways for the tribe to prosper well into the future, including the $85 million purchase of a coal mine and negotiating a settlement with Arizona for water from the Lower Basin of the Colorado River, weren't praised widely across the reservation.
In written testimony submitted to Congress earlier this month, Shelly wrote: "I look forward to the day to hand back the last federal dollar, saying, 'here — we don't need it anymore.'"
The water settlement ultimately wasn't approved by Navajo lawmakers or the neighboring Hopi Tribe. To this day, the tribe doesn't have rights to water in the Lower Basin.
Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren ordered flags lowered across the reservation to honor Shelly, who died just two weeks after former tribal President Peterson Zah.
One of the most ambitious proposals from Shelly's administration was an aerial tram that would take tourists from the eastern rim of the Grand Canyon on the reservation near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. Shelly touted it as a way to capture tourist dollars and create jobs for Navajos. Tribal lawmakers shot it down after Shelly left office.
"He had the strength and courage to take on controversial issues," said Erny Zah, a former communications director for Shelly.
Shelly advocated for a ban on smoking in public places and approved a junk food tax. The tribe fully passed reviews for its Head Start program for the first time in two decades under Shelly's administration and received a roughly $1 billion settlement to clean up uranium-contaminated sites.
Shelly was the first Navajo president to work with a legislative body that was reduced from 88 to 24 members in a ballot initiative. Shelly approached the task by trying to be as inclusive as possible to move forward the priorities of the Navajo people, said Sherrick Roanhorse, a former assistant and chief of staff for Shelly.
"Those first six months were pretty challenging for the whole Navajo Nation government," Roanhorse said. "They had to redefine themselves."
Outside the office, Shelly enjoyed taking road trips with his wife, Martha, working on his ranch in Thoreau and tinkering with vehicles, Roanhorse said.
"If we had an extra moment in time where we were in Phoenix or Albuquerque, an hour extra of time, we would end up taking a tour of some of the junk yards to just see what kind of parts they had available," Roanhorse said. "That was his hobby."
Shelly was the first sitting vice president to be elected to the top post on the reservation — the largest in the U.S. at 27,000 square miles (69,000 square kilometers), extending into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. He won the election in 2010, despite being charged in a case that accused dozens of Navajo Nation lawmakers of stealing from the tribal government.
Shelly and his vice president, Rex Lee Jim, openly talked about the charges and reached a settlement to repay some of the funds. Shelly had served on the Navajo Nation Council for 16 years representing his hometown of Thoreau and on the McKinley County Board of Commissioners.
Shelly and his family ran a transportation business for the last seven years.
He is survived by Martha Shelly, his wife of 57 years, plus five children, 12 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Shelly's family plans to hold a private service and a public memorial at a future date.
Workplace-safety sanction finalized in Alec Baldwin shooting - By Morgan Lee Associated Press
No one is objecting to a settlement agreement to resolve allegations of workplace safety violations in the 2021 shooting death of a cinematographer by Alec Baldwin on the set of a Western movie.
After a 20-day vetting period with no objections, the agreement between New Mexico workplace safety regulators and Rust Movie Productions has been finalized along with a $100,000 fine against the company that originally bankrolled the movie "Rust."
Matthew Maez, a spokesman for the state Environment Department and its workplace safety bureau, confirmed Tuesday the conclusion of the workplace safety probe of Rust Movie Productions under a final order. The $100,000 payment is due by April 15, he said.
Separately, Baldwin and weapons supervisor Hannah Gutierrez-Reed are confronting felony involuntary manslaughter charges in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, who died shortly after being wounded during rehearsals at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe in October 2021.
Authorities say Baldwin was pointing a pistol at Hutchins when the gun went off, killing her and wounding director Joel Souza.
Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed have pleaded not guilty, and an evidentiary hearing is scheduled in May to determine whether the case can proceed to trial. Baldwin was both a lead actor and coproducer on "Rust." The charges carry a punishment of up to 18 months in prison.
The state's final workplace-safety order states that Rust Movie Productions "did not furnish a place of employment free from hazards in that employees were exposed to being struck by discharged rounds or projectiles when firearms were used on the set of the motion picture production."
Safety violations are categorized as "serious" — and not "willful-serious," as initially alleged.
In April 2022, New Mexico's Occupational Health and Safety Bureau slapped Rust Movie Productions with a maximum $136,793 fine while distributing a scathing narrative of safety failures in violation of standard industry protocols, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires on set before the fatal shooting.
The bureau also documented gun-safety complaints from crew members that went unheeded and said weapons specialists were not allowed to make decisions about additional safety training.
Rust Movie Productions previously announced that filming would resume this year on "Rust" at a ranch in Montana, with Hutchins' widower, Matthew Hutchins, serving as the film's new executive producer.
In court proceedings, prosecutors say assistant director David Halls, who oversaw safety on the set, has signed an agreement to plead guilty in the negligent use of a deadly weapon. A judge is scheduled to consider approval of the plea agreement next week.
ABQ Ride reduces routes and bus frequency amid staff shortage - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News
Albuquerque will reduce its bus services beginning this Saturday. The city says the changes affect26 different routes across the city and are due to staffing shortages in the department.
The Albuquerque Journal reports some of the routes will be suspended altogether, including the Albuquerque Rapid Transit Blue Line from the westside to the University of New Mexico. Other buses will continue running, but less frequently. Those include busy routes like the one that runs along Central Ave. as well as Wyoming Blvd.
The city says it will reevaluate the reductions if it's able to hire more drivers and mechanics.
Meanwhile, the city is engaging in more systematic changes to its bus system through an initiative called ABQ Ride Forward. The public is invited to weigh in on two concept maps — one that prioritizes busy areas and one that focuses on covering more of the city — according to the Journal. The first of several public meetings is today [THURS] at 5:30 p.m. at the Alvarado Transportation Center. There’s also an option to attend remotely.
Albuquerque mayor wants to crack down on speeders who flout cameras - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News
Mayor Tim Keller has proposed legislation that would crack down on drivers who’ve been caught by the city’s speed cameras but haven’t paid up.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that, under the proposed ordinance, speeders with three or more tickets from the cameras could have the vehicles booted or impounded when parked on city property, including Albuquerque streets.
However, the city’s Municipal Development Department only has seven parking officers, who would be responsible for enforcing the policy.
A spokesperson for the department tells the Journal that the officers won’t be going out of their way to find those in violation, but that the policy could make it possible to hold them accountable and be a deterrent to flouting the $100 dollar tickets.
The tickets can also be paid with four hours of community service.
About a third of tickets go unpaid, according to the city.
Lawmaker plans to bring back bill prohibiting senators from drinking on the job – Santa Fe New Mexican, KUNM News
An effort to ban state senators from drinking on the job failed this year in the legislature. But the freshman lawmaker who introduced it plans to push for it again in a future session.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the resolution by Democratic Sen. Harold Pope failed to get a hearing in its only assigned committee.
The proposal would have prohibited senators from drinking alcohol before or during committee meetings or floor sessions.
Pope says he’s not opposed to alcohol, but that senators should be “clearheaded” when crafting and debating legislation. He also noted that other workplaces don’t allow drinking on the job.
Next year’s legislative session will only last for 30 days and Pope says he needs to research how to bring back the bill since shorter session will mostly focus on budget issues.
Bill at gov’s desk would lift ‘gag order’ for people filing legislative harassment complaints - By Megan Gleason, Source New Mexico
If someone is accused of harassment in the Legislature, they can speak up about it. The person who files a complaint about it can’t.
Legislation that would change that is now awaiting action from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Senators night passed House Bill 169, Disclosure of Legislative Ethics Complaints, by a 34-2 vote on Thursday evening. Sens. Crystal Diamond (R-Elephant Butte) and Gregory Baca (R-Belen) voted against it.
This measure would lift the confidentiality agreement that people who file harassment complaints to the interim Legislative Ethics Committee are bound to. Under this bill, they would be able to talk about a complaint or investigation at any time.
The Legislative Ethics Committee and its staff would still be tied to that confidentiality clause.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) explained the bill to the full Senate on Thursday. He said the current measure that silences a person who files a complaint is potentially suspect under the First Amendment, which allows the right to free speech.
“It restricts or limits the complainant’s ability to speak about their own complaint or the investigation as it progresses,” he said.
This new change would allow that person to talk freely about the issue. Cervantes said the purpose of this bill is to “release what is effectively a gag order or rule on a complaining party.”
This move comes following multiple sexual misconduct allegations in 2022 against a senator who’s still around this session. This year, some lobbyists were fearful of lawmakers maintaining professional behavior and conduct.
If Lujan Grisham signs the bill into law, the new rules will start up on June 16.