Working New Mexico

Israel Chavez

 Working New Mexico Member since September 2013

“I’m really concerned about those families who need that extra 50 bucks for groceries….”

I’ve been a server for seven years; I’m working in a fine dining restaurant now. I also go to college at the University of New Mexico, and I’m on the board of a couple of nonprofits.

I was interested in working on enforcement of the minimum wage in Albuquerque. I got connected with Working New Mexico because they were already working on that issue.

Over the years, I’ve seen so many single moms and single dads who wait on tables who have to constantly work above 40 hours to make ends meet. I’m really concerned about those families who need that extra 50 bucks for groceries or for school supplies.

I went to speak before the city council, and I told the council they need to enforce what was passed by the voters. Otherwise, they are subverting the law [increasing the minimum wage] that 66 percent of people in Albuquerque voted for.

One of the city councilors proceeded to ask the city attorney, ‘What’s the issue on this?’ And the city attorney said, ‘We’re referring complaints to private attorneys.’ And I said, ‘You expect minimum wage workers to bring private litigation? That’s absurd.’ The city attorney got flustered and said, ‘We’re not changing our position; we’re not going to enforce the minimum wage.’

A local progressive nonprofit blasted it to their list, one of the most extensive in the city, and that video went viral.

I love Working New Mexico. It stands for something that doesn’t get a lot of attention, workers that don’t have an organization, that are left out…servers in restaurants, workers in the dairy industry who are often taken advantage of to the detriment of their own health.

My parents are from Las Cruces, my grandparents are from Mexico. My grandfather was a bracero; he worked hard all his life to buy a little plant of land. I don’t have to pick vegetables in a field, but I’m also working hard to get ahead, and to make sure everyone has a fair chance.

It starts with elected representatives. When 66 percent of the people vote in favor of a law, the city council should not try to subvert it. That’s despicable.

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