The contributions of public service workers in law enforcement, corrections and emergency medical services often go unnoticed and unheralded. But that was certainly not the case in New Mexico last month, as AFSCME Council 18 members came together on Jan. 31 to honor public safety officers and their vital contributions to our communities.
With the theme of “public safety is our commitment,” the 10th Annual AFSCME Blue Breakfast – keynoted by AFSCME President Lee Saunders – began with a moment of silence for members who have lost their lives while serving our communities.
“All AFSCME members have hard jobs, but no one puts more on the line every day – under tougher conditions – than all of you. Yours is very often life and death work,” said Saunders. “You operate with little margin for error. You truly are the everyday heroes and I salute you.”
Saunders went on to praise Council 18 members for standing strong and electing pro-workers legislators who prioritize public safety, even as the public safety workers endured a staffing crisis and faced an increasing number of inmate assaults.
“Our elected leaders have an obligation to all our public service workers – but to you especially,” Saunders added. “They have an obligation to repay your sacrifice with basic respect. To give you the tools to do your job. To ensure the safest possible workplace. To pay you a fair wage with good benefits, so that you can provide a decent life for your families.”
In attendance were New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, state Attorney General Hector Balderas and Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gabriel Valdez.
Robert Morris, a member of Local 1211, Council 18, who works for the state’s Correctional Security Threat Intelligence Unit, said AFSCME gives him the opportunity to advocate for his fellow corrections officers and the communities they all serve.
“Our jobs are extremely stressful and dangerous, but by being a part of AFSCME we not only have a seat at the table but we are also offered first class trainings to ensure that we have the necessary tools to represent our members,” Morris said.
Council 18 Executive Director Connie Derr said, “We are so proud to represent the hardworking men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep New Mexico safe. They have some of the most difficult public sector careers and always perform them with the utmost dedication and professionalism.”