Albuquerque Mayor and City Council Need to Respect the Will of the People on Minimum Wage

In recent statements, both Mayor Richard Berry and the Albuquerque City Attorney, David Tourek said they were unable to enforce the current minimum wage because they lacked authorization and resources from the City Council. We strongly urge the City Council to ensure that the Mayor and the City Attorney are given the necessary resources and authorization to ensure that the recent minimum wage increase is properly implemented.

New Mexico has the highest percentage of low-income working families in the nation. It also ranks highest in income inequality—the richest 20 percent make about 10 times the income of the poorest 20 percent. Every week we talk to thousands of people whose low-wage work barely affords them the ability to pay their bills.

Last year, after talking to tens of thousands of New Mexican workers, Working America helped pass a minimum wage increase in Albuquerque from $7.50 to $8.50. The measure passed with overwhelming support: two out of three Burqueños voted in favor of the initiative.

This win is a victory for our community. What this victory means for workers is more money in their pockets to spend on everyday necessities. For Andrea, who works part-time in a retail store to help support her family, this victory means that she doesn’t have to beg her employer for more hours just so she can put food on the table.

Andrea is fortunate that her employer has implemented the legal wage. For many other workers across the city, we know this isn’t the case. We hear from workers every night at the doors, in restaurants where we eat, and of course, recently in our local news that some businesses are choosing to not obey the law. Working America and our 60,000 Albuquerque members were disappointed to hear the lack of leadership that Mayor Berry took on this issue when he said that workers should just hire an attorney and do it themselves because it wasn’t up to him to enforce the laws.

Albuquerque laws are not served buffet style and enforcement is not a DIY project. Mayor Berry and the City Attorney passed the buck when they said that it was up to the City Council to ensure enforcement, I am here tonight to ask you to do everything in your power to ensure that all workers are being paid accordingly to the law.

Chelsey Evans is the New Mexico State Director for Working America.