James Wernicke for Los Alamos County Council

Supporting Our Workers

While we celebrate Labor Day by camping, visiting family, or some other ritual farewell to summer, it’s a day to remember those who fought for fair working conditions and reflect how fortunate we are to have safe environments to earn fair compensation with health insurance, retirement accounts, tuition assistance, and all those other benefits our working class ancestors never dreamed of. Did you know that Los Alamos generates $1.4B in payroll? Another way to think about it is that it raises New Mexico’s average annual income by $1400. That’s quite a boon to the local economy, but we’ve got more to do for our workforce.

Did you also know that over 8,000 workers commute to Los Alamos? That number grows when 1,800 students come here for summer internships. Many would prefer to live in Los Alamos, but our housing shortage makes that option nearly impossible. One of the best things we can do to improve our community is to build more housing. That means expanding high-density residential zoning in our master plans, simplifying residential code to safety issues, reducing the time to get construction permits, enforcing inspection integrity, and auctioning public land publicly to local residents to build primary residences and community-owned high-density mixed-income housing. We can also engage LANL’s Community Partnerships Office and Student Association to advocate for student dormitories.

In addition to building more housing, we can support our workers by diversifying property ownership. The market rate for a room in Los Alamos is $800-1200/mo. That’s 30% of a post-bac salary, but it’s 60% for somebody working at Smith’s. Many people live in dilapidated conditions, concerned their landlord will raise the rent if they ask them to fix the plumbing. By selling land to local workers and entrepreneurs who care about this community, passive income investors will have to compete by lowering rent, improving property, or both.

Last but not least, we can also support our local small businesses by including them in economic development opportunities for commercial property ownership. If small businesses have their own property and employees that can live in Los Alamos, they can thrive here.

Grover Cleveland recognized the importance of the working class by honoring them with a holiday in 1894. It’s time Los Alamos honors its workers with equitable living conditions.

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