40,000 Workers in Albuquerque Get a Raise This Week (You Built That)

They said we couldn’t gather the signatures. They said we wouldn’t win in court. And they said we wouldn’t win a political campaign. But thanks to your hard work and support in 2012, the increase in the minimum wage in Albuquerque went into effect on January 1, 2013.

This increase effectively gives a raise to 40,000 low-wage workers in New Mexico’s largest city. The minimum hourly wage will jump from $7.50 to $8.50, and from $2.13 to $3.83 for tipped workers. The measure that passed in November also ties the minimum wage to inflation.

For a minimum wage employee working 40 hours a week – and we all know low-wage workers often put in more hours than that – the measure is an effective $2,080 annual pay raise.

It wasn’t easy.

With the support of many Working America members, organizers gathered more than 25,000 signatures to get the minimum wage increase on the ballot. They then had to fight in court to validate the signatures after a typo threatened to derail the whole endeavor; the case went all the way up to the state Supreme Court. A well-funded coalition including the Koch Bros.-funded group Americans for Prosperity ran ads against the proposal, and Albuquerque’s Mayor Richard Berry and City Council President Trudy Jones vocally opposed it.

But you didn’t stop. On November 6, 2012, 139,000 voters, or 66 percent, voted for the minimum wage increase. Recognizing public sentiment, the City Council has not used their powers to intervene.

Increasing the minimum wage isn’t just good for low-wage workers. It’s good for the economy as a whole. Unlike the wealthiest Americans, low-wage workers are more likely to spend extra income as soon as they get it, giving a boost to the economy:

“When you get an increase in the minimum wage, you’re getting a wage increase to the people that are low-wage families who depend on these earnings to make ends meet,” said [economist Heidi Shierholz]. “They have no choice but to spend that money in their local economy. That’s the stimulus you get.”

Now what would happen if we took such a wage increase national?

According to Shierholz, jacking the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 would give a raise to 10 million workers, including many currently earning their state minimum wage. That could ultimately pump as much as $9 billion into the economy, she said. “At a time like this, there is nothing else putting upward pressure on wages.”

The victory in Albuquerque is just the beginning, and it’s all thanks to your hard work and support.