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For Immediate Release

Friday, February 11, 2011

“Pillars of a Civil Society”

National Civil Rights, Labor Leaders Speak Out on Behalf of Public Service Workers

Santa Fe, NM — 

National civil rights activist and leader, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Lee A. Saunders, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO called on New Mexicans to recognize that public service workers are the key to a society that works, a society of “decency and obligation to community and hope” in a press conference at the New Mexico Legislature today hosted by State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque).

Sharpton called those who serve the public “pillars of a civil society,” essential to the well-being of our families and future and unworthy targets of groups seeking to undermine public employees simply for political gain. Saunders, one of the highest elected African Americans in the labor movement, noted that state and national politicians and pundits are engaged in a coordinated attack on public services; both he and Sharpton are fighting back by joining together and getting the message out in cities and states across the country.

“When they’re not raging against public services and working people, they’re trying to turn back the hands of time,” Saunders said. “They talk about states’ rights, but never workers’ rights. They talk about individual responsibility, but never communal responsibility. New Mexico’s public service employees are working harder than ever to serve their neighbors and their communities during these difficult economic times.”

Ken Long, a highway maintenance worker for the Department of Transportation and AFSCME Council 18 member, said he felt a real connection with Sharpton’s and Saunders’ views of public service workers. “I can’t tell you how many public employees feel that we are a proud and important part of this community. But these speakers put it out there clearly. We make things work, we’re the glue that holds our community together on good days and bad. And if you don’t have someone doing that, society doesn’t really work.”

Reverend Sharpton will speak to a joint session of the House and Senate in honor of African-American Day at the New Mexico State Legislature at 11 a.m. in the Roundhouse on Friday, Feb. 11.

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