|Mommy, in the center with her sister on the left |
and best friend on the right.
My grandma was also precinct chair for Santa Fe county in the late 1940's, when women were not commonly working in elections. She would travel to the state capital and was very active in politics. She was incredibly smart and witty and, had she been born in a different era, would have been an attorney or held office.
My mom is the youngest of her sisters and also grew up on the ranch. She was raised as much by rock-n-roll and American Bandstand as she was by my grandma, and she liked the "big city" of Albuquerque much more than she did the rancho. My mom's high school was very small (there were only 6 people in her senior class) but she was on student council, the basketball team, the school paper and also participated in Girls State, where she got to spend a week at the University of New Mexico and participate in a mock government. Later, she was on the picket line, fighting for her union and won rights for workers that are still in place today.
I often write about my dad's love of politics and attribute my love of the game to him, but I overlook the influence my grandma and mom have had on me and the work I've chosen to do.
I became an activist when I was just 14 years old, becoming involved with a youth organization, El Puente Raza Youth Leadership Institute, which changed my life. From there, I went into community education and eventually found my way to organizing. A friend once asked "so, you get paid to protest?" If it were only that simple! Community organizing is less about protesting and more about one-on-one conversations, which lead to community conversations, which lead to creating space for communities to come together, which leads to a desire and a belief that yes, change is possible and yes, "we are the ones we've been waiting for."
Change, inevitably, means taking on the status quo and working to create a new way of thinking, working and living.
This year, on what would have been Mommy's 113th birthday, Albuquerque voters will decide on a new mayor, city council and whether or not to allow every worker in our city the opportunity to earn paid sick leave.
|My mom, and her bobby socks, circa 1956|
Workers of all types deserve dignity and basic benefits like sick leave. Opponents argue that earned sick leave is a job killer, and create a dystopian future that somehow only exists when the issue of workers rights comes up. At some point, we have to realize that treating workers with dignity and allowing them to care for themselves and their families is good for business and good for all of us.
Community organizing is a calling, and in many ways, it's a privilege. I've watched our coalition, organizers, community members, small business owners and allies pull together and run an amazing campaign. This movement thrives even in the face of lawsuits that tried to get the earned paid sick leave question kicked off the ballot; a last minute, illegal advisory question from the city council (that was later removed) and gross misconceptions spread by business coalitions who don't seem to care about small businesses until there is a movement to actually help workers and business owners.
At times, the frustration hangs on me like a heavy stone, but then I see the volunteers and canvassers and the thousands of phone calls and doors they've knocked on, and I remember - this is bigger than my fear. This campaign is bigger than earned sick days. This campaign is a fight for the soul of our city - my city, our city - and I joined this fight because I was called to it. I joined this fight because I believe in it, and I believe in this city.
To be sure, families who are faced with the choice between taking care of a sick loved one and a full paycheck make it work every day, but how much easier would it be if they didn't have to make that choice? Both my parents worked when I was a kid, and we were lucky - my grandma would stay with us if we were sick. So many families don't have that luxury, which should be a basic human right.
I may have inherited my love of politics from my pop, but I inherited the calling to be active from the women who raised me; I honor them with the work I do. I ask you to vote FOR the proposed ordinance for earned sick days for our families, our city and our souls.
Happy birthday, Mommy.