June 30, 2016, Mónica Ortiz Uribe announced to thousands of poor Latino and migrant worker families that the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in favor of requiring Worker’s Compensation for farm and ranch employees. Attorneys from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, an Albuquerque nonprofit, led the charge. [legal decision]
Farm and ranching is dangerous work. As we reflect during the C19 pandemic how important are essential employees who put food on our table, New Mexico was one of only 16 states that didn’t provide worker protections. Disgusting right?
Was called a landmark decision. The ruling nullified a long-standing law enacted by state lawmakers 80 years earlier. Gail Evans and I teamed up on this effort. We won!
“We’re thrilled. It’s been a long battle. But this is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Gail Evans, legal director for NM Center on Law and Poverty
Gail Evans Cost Me My Job and Career
Gail and her partner, Maria Martinez, came to the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration (WCA) around October 2008. They were preparing a legislative proposal for the regular, 60-day session in 2009. Had tried two years previously, but were unsuccessful.
My boss, bureau chief Mark Llewellyn, had provided an unfavorable Fiscal Impact Report (FIR) to the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC). His cost estimates suggested covering farm and ranch workers would bankrupt many family and small corporate ag businesses. Their 2007 proposal was Dead On Arrival.
The only information the two provided was Llewellyn’s FIR. As I had no background in this policy area, said I needed to meet with my chief. Our session was shocking.
All work by public employees, i.e., city, county, state or federal, must be preserved. Research is funded by taxpayers or stakeholders and remains public property. As the chief submitted a FIR for this proposal, there must be archived supporting files and documentation. He told me there were none.
“No files?” I asked puzzled. “Lose them?” He said no. “What happened then?” He told me he roughed calculations on a napkin. I laughed. “Did you save the napkin?” Again, he answered no. “Can you re-create your analysis or data?” No.
As we talked, it was clear my chief had faked the numbers. To be more specific, he had falsified a FIR presented to the LFC. One could be fired, possible go to jail, for such action. I had been with the agency a couple years. Chief Llewellyn wasn’t timid exposing his political leanings. He was a passionate conservative who championed small government and fewer worker protections.
That an individual with adverse political leanings toward workers rose to direct our bureau highlights the corruption in New Mexico. Similar to Hawai’i, pro-business groups and powerful anti-worker activists control civil rights and employee protection agencies. (see HCRC Cheats Local Family)
At the next meeting with Gail and Maria, I told them the truth. Wasn’t going to cover up Llewellyn’s malfeasance. We agreed we needed to start from scratch. “How should we proceed?” I asked the ladies. They laughed. “We’re attorneys. You’re the policy economist. We count on you.”
I’m a decent detective. Contacted the USDA and various state departments of agriculture. I dug deep into farm reports, labor statistics and related publications. This is similar to researching asymptomatic C19 carriers today. Without symptoms, infectious people are invisible to medical professionals. Migrant workers move place-to-place and job-to-job. Many are undocumented and paid in cash. They’re invisible in most computerized and formal systems.
I created an algorithm approximating the number of employees in various industries and assigned cost estimates to groups. Wasn’t perfect. Former Lt. Governor Walter Dwight Bradley, serving as lobbyist for NM Dairy Industry, interrupted my final presentation claiming my figures were “completely wrong.” Loudly to the audience, he barked there were more workers in dairy than I had suggested in total.
Contacted dairy officials the next day. They apologized. The Lt. Governor had miscalculated they reported. My estimates looked reasonable to them. Mr. Bradley later apologized to me privately. Asked for a public retraction. He laughed and said no.
Without Bradley’s opposition, the Center moved forward and the legislation passed in 2009 during a vicious political and emotional battle. Farm and ranch owners claimed they would be destroyed. “We’re not price makers; we’re price takers,” they said accurately. I descend from family who farmed corn in Illinois. I know the harsh challenges and struggles.
“This will be yet another financial blow to New Mexico’s farm, ranch and dairy families who are already stretched thin by the lagging economy and over-regulation issues.”
Chad Smith, New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau [source]
Gail Evans and Center Refused to Assist Me
Gail and the Center on Law and Poverty successfully increased worker protections, but the WCA refused to implement the new policy. The Center prepared to sue the State of New Mexico. To do this, they needed to dispose Chief Llewellyn and myself. For weeks we sat in lengthy depositions. Testified on the record against my boss. Senior management knew what I was reporting.
All were now aware of the story about a chief and his subordinate economist. The depositions remain preserved in New Mexico public records. There are thousands of pages — me standing alone against my chief. He lied. He falsified data and a FIR. As a disciple of John Lewis, I knew what had to be done: See something wrong or unjust; say something.
Shortly afterward, the agency removed me from a promotion. They passed me over for a supervisor position hiring a guy with less experience who didn’t meet the required minimum qualifications. The agency passed me over for chief after Llewellyn retired and selected a man outside the agency who had no experience in workers’ comp, insurance or labor policy.
Over the following years, the agency fired me twice. I reached out to Gail and Maria. The Center on Poverty and Law, along with Gail Evans refused to help. I stood alone. Had assisted their efforts. Put my career on the line for poor Brown men, women and families. When I needed help, these women were too busy for me.
After the agency fired me the first time, I applied for a policy analyst position with the Center. Denied. After the second termination, I again applied for a position. Denied again.
I’m a White male. If you review the Center on Law and Poverty’s staff page, you’ll find twenty-two listed employees. Nineteen are female, mostly Women of Color. The Center allows only three men to work with the team. In an equal treatment world, there would be a 50/50 mix of females to men. Had fought for these women. They abandoned me in my time of need.
Gail Evans Labels Me Racist/Sexist
In an email this morning, Gail Evans wrote: Hello. Please remove me from your list serv. I just cannot tolerate your racist/sexist rants anymore. Thank you. Gail
The previous day, I had forwarded a link to my article.
On Tue, Jul 28, 2020 at 7:09 PM wrote:
Aloha e friends,
Teachers locally and across the nation refuse to return to the classroom. Most teachers are female today. Are women demonstrating a collective cowardice? My U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is no coward. Female DRs and nurses have demonstrated heroic bravery during this crisis. What’s wrong with educators?
It’s simple: Don’t want to teach. Then don’t take food from those who are currently sacrificing and risking death. Don’t expect hospitals to serve you or medical providers to care for you. It’s either One For All and All For One … or get out! America doesn’t welcome cowards. Stay home and be branded.
Students in other nations are back in school. We expect essential employees to fill our bellies and care for us in sickness and health. I’ll teach. As a third-generation educator, I’m willing to sacrifice for our most important possessions — our children. They need structure and to continue learning.
Uncertainly, fear and being locked at home is tough on our youngsters mentally and emotionally. We can and must move forward with a New Normal in education and America. Shouldn’t be labeled racist or sexist for professional opinions.
I responded to Gail:
Humble apologies. Remember like it was yesterday when we first met. Over ten years ago now. Chief Llewellyn had deceived your group and harmed thousands of workers who were denied comp insurance. I was so passionate to assist you and Maria. He lied; yet he retired with full pension.
Standing with you cost me my job. Having no one in my corner, did the best I could alone … I stood for women and People of Color. None stood with me when the oppressors came for me. None! Doubt you’ve ever suffered such isolation that most men do. The liar and cheater prospered. The one who assisted you ended up in the trash.
I gave you my life. You abandoned me. As a White male, I just wanted ONE friend, ONE professional to help me fight the oppressors. If you believe I’ve gone over to the Dark Side, look in the mirror. When one is drowning, they accept a life line from whomever throws it out.
I believed once. None of you cared about people like me. Take care!
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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”
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