Municipal Government

How a New Mexico Worker Center Beats Retaliation

January 13, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Santa Fe, NM- Nonunion workers who fight for better job conditions often have no recourse against retaliation—but Somos un Pueblo Unido, a New Mexico worker center, is developing strategies to maximize the protection they can get from federal law and publicity.

Somos says it has helped organize “workplace committees” at 50 hotels, restaurants, car washes, landscapers, and cleaning companies over the last five years, and that less than one-fourth of those employers have fired workers in retaliation. The strategy relies on solidarity, publicity, and documentation. Workers agree they won’t meet with the employer alone, and they won’t sign anything without checking with the others; they speak to the media about their complaints and hold demonstrations if employers retaliate; and having workers put their demands in writing provides clear evidence of the “concerted activities” protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. “We didn’t set out to create a model,” says Somos executive director Marcela Diaz. “When you don’t have the power to bargain, you have to be creative. We throw mud at the wall to see what sticks—and this is what stuck.”
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January 12, 2016

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