Jon Hendry is out from his post with the union that represents film and television crews in New Mexico. Hendry resigned after a woman filed a lawsuit alleging he sexually harassed her. Another woman came forward and added her name to the lawsuit. A statement provided to media said it was a “voluntary resignation.”
He had already left his post as head of the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, then on Sunday came news that he left his role in the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees Local 480. That same day, dozens of union members attended the union’s monthly meeting, which was the first time the union met after the allegations became public.
The chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico resigned Tuesday amid criticism of his handling of recent claims of sexual harassment against a Doña Ana County Commissioner and a former New Mexico Federation of Labor president Jon Hendry. The labor organization is a key ally of Democrats in the state. Ellenberg announced his resignation with a letter to the party’s state central committee. “I regret the way in which I have managed complaints of survivors who have come forward about sexual harassment, and take full responsibility to continue to learn and grow so that I can be an advocate and ally in the future,” Ellenberg wrote. Last month, the state party’s vice chairwoman wrote a pointed letter to Ellenberg about how he dealt with her accusations of sexual harassment against former Doña Ana County Commissioner John Vasquez.
The powerful head of a major labor group in New Mexico is accused of sexual harassment. Jon Hendry, the president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, faces a lawsuit alleging he sexually harassed and employee and created a hostile and discriminatory workplace environment. Christa Valdes filed the lawsuit, accusing Hendry of grabbing employees by the buttocks, sending lewd text messages and showing naked photos on his phone. The suit also accuses IATSE Local 480, for which Hendry is the business agent, of covering up the allegations when they were brought to their attention. Valdes did public relations work for the union.
Commissioners approved a county-level right-to-work ordinance even as detractors promised to sue. Early Friday morning, the Sandoval County Commission voted 3-1 to make the county the first to implement a right-to-work ordinance. Previous efforts at the statewide level repeatedly failed, while a citywide effort in Clovis decades ago was struck down by a federal court. “This is our time to lead the state,” ordinance sponsor Jay Block said in arguing for the ordinance. He said the bill would bring better wages, more jobs and would, in fact, help unions by increasing their rolls.
The Sandoval County Commission’s effort to impose a right-to-work ordinance at the county level may have run into a roadblock: the pile of cash it would cost the county to defend itself against promised lawsuits.. But in a late-night vote, the commission voted 4-1 to publish the proposed ordinance’s legislation, putting in motion the process for passage of the ordinance. When enacted, right-to-work laws stop employers from entering into agreements with workers that require they be a member of a labor union or that non-union members pay union dues, known as “fair share” as a condition of employment. County Commission Chairman Don Chapman said he supported right-to-work, but was concerned about the cost of litigation. During the meeting he read aloud an email from the county attorney explaining that the county would be sued—and that it is “very likely we will lose the lawsuit” at both the federal district court and circuit court of appeals level.
A Sandoval County Commission meeting attracted a boisterous crowd Thursday night, as passions ran high over a proposed right-to-work ordinance. The capacity crowd remained mostly respectful, at least until after public comment and once the commissioners began speaking. One commissioner compared unions to the mafia and then singled out a teacher who commented earlier and blamed teachers unions for poor education of students. Right-to-work laws, which are in place in more than half the states in the country, bar unions from imposing mandatory fees on workers. The proposed ordinance would not apply to current companies and unions in the county.
A big, vocal crowd is expected at a Sandoval County Commission meeting Thursday night to discuss an issue usually raised at a state level: Right-to-work. Republicans raised right to work proposals at the New Mexico State Legislature in 2015 and 2016, but were unable to pass any laws stopping unions from imposing mandatory fees on workers. Now, advocates are pushing for it at the county level. And Sandoval County is poised to be the first salvo in a bruising battle that will likely end up in the courts. Advocates like Americans for Prosperity raised the issue in Sandoval County and commissioners are expected to start the process toward passing the ordinance on Tuesday.
A proposal to boost New Mexico’s maximum annual payout of tax incentives for film and television productions moved forward Friday afternoon with a do-pass recommendation from the House Business and Industry Committee, despite legislators’ vexation over a mathematical error in the bill’s text. Legislators of both parties expressed support for New Mexico’s growing film industry, though some cautioned against the perception that the state might prioritize these incentives while lawmakers struggle with pressing budget concerns. “We just cut education twice — in the special session, we just cut it a few weeks ago, and we’re getting ready to cut it again,” said Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Sandoval. “Three times. My constituents are like, ‘Can we at least freeze the film industry in these difficult times?'”
However, backers of the bill characterized the proposed increase as an investment by the state and an adjustment for inflation.
Between campaign rallies in Colorado and Arizona for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders stopped in Albuquerque to spoke at a short rally for the Democratic nominee for president. Coming off his loss to Clinton in a contested race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sanders focused his speech on policies on which both he and the former U.S. Secretary of State agree. The independent U.S. Senator from Vermont also spent much of his 30 minutes criticizing Republican nominee Donald Trump, whom he called “racist,” “xenophobic” and “sexist.”
“We cannot support a candidate who is running a campaign based on racism, based on sexism, based on dividing us up,” Sanders told a crowd of roughly 1,000 people gathered Tuesday in the middle of the University of New Mexico campus. “That is not acceptable.”
Sanders listed off Clinton’s stances on issues like campaign finance reform, climate change, raising taxes on the wealthy and immigration. For example, Sanders said he and Clinton both support doubling federal funding for community health centers and forgiving student debt on doctors and health care workers who commit to practicing in underserved areas after graduation.
Legislators on opposing sides of the aisle are using remarkably similar arguments on two bills that would delay tax breaks and subsidies to businesses to help balance New Mexico’s projected $460 million shortfall between last year and this year. One would delay incoming corporate tax cuts for two years, saving the state an estimated $13.8 million this fiscal year, according to the Legislative Finance Committee,
The other bill would generate $20 million by cutting New Mexico’s film industry subsidy by that much this year. While both bills bear similarities in delaying tax breaks and subsidies for businesses, they’re being both supported and opposed on nearly opposite partisan lines. Democratic leadership in the Roundhouse argued that businesses must participate in the “shared sacrifice” of cuts to solve the state’s budget crisis when supporting the corporate tax cut delays that the Senate passed last weekend. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, emphasized this point when criticizing proposed cuts to services in the Republican budget plan Monday morning in his office.