Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez was far away from his home in Valencia County or even the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Wednesday.
The Democrat from Belen took part in the “Summit on Worker Voice” at the White House. The New York Times described the gathering as “an effort to give unions, organizers and some businesses a platform to discuss wages and other issues.”
President Barack Obama spoke at the summit and said that when unions are attacked, the middle class is attacked.
He also spoke about income inequality.
“America works when we are building a broad-based middle class and there are ladders of opportunity that everybody can reach,” Obama said according to a White House transcript. “And historically, it doesn’t work and not only does our economy but our politics also turn in a bad direction when you start seeing huge separations between how folks at the top are doing and everybody else is doing.”
Sanchez spoke at the summit about New Mexico, including the state Senate defeating efforts to pass right-to-work legislation, an effort vigorously opposed by labor unions.
According to a press release by the Senate Majority after the event, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez asked Sanchez about the right-to-work effort.
“I don’t call it the RTW. I call it anti-worker legislation, because that is what it is,” said Sanchez.
As Majority Leader, Sanchez is arguably the most powerful member of the Senate. He can decide what legislation goes to which committee and when legislation can be heard on the Senate floor.
“My dad had a bakery for 40 years,” Sanchez said. “He instilled in us that if you take care of your employees, if you listen to what their needs are, if you understand where they come from and they are not worried about paying their bills, that’s the biggest asset in the world.”
Sanchez wasn’t the only New Mexican at the summit.
Longtime Española early childhood educator Carmella Salinas also was at the summit. Salinas is the president of PEOPLE for the Kids and a member of an American Federation of Teachers affiliate.
AFT sent out a press release about Salinas’ inclusion in the summit.
“I love my kids and am passionate about my job. However, like many early childhood educators across the country, I have to rely on government assistance to make ends meet for my family,” Salinas said. “That is why I became an active member of Early Educators United and helped to form the PEOPLE for the Kids partnership.
“It’s going to take all of us, working together, parents, educators and small business owners, to raise our collective voice on behalf of New Mexico’s kids and the educators who serve them,” she continued.