Officials Attempt to Delay Minimum Wage Increase in New Mexico’s Largest County—And Fail

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In 2013, Working New Mexico members fought for a minimum wage increase in Bernalillo County—and won. Bernalillo is the most populous county in the state and includes the city of Albuquerque.

The increase included a cost of living adjustment, but on January 1, 2015 workers were disappointed that the cost of living adjustment had not been implemented. When a reporter spoke with Commissioner Wayne Johnson about the cost of living adjustment not being enforced, he stated it was an oversight by the commission and they were trying to resolve the issue but a resolution might come as late as 2016.

The minimum wage workers would be losing $0.15 per hour. For a full-time worker, that would equal $312 a year, or a week’s worth of pay.  When Commissioner Johnson stated that it was an oversight on part of the Board of Commissioners, Working America members were upset because this meant that they would not have $312 extra this year to help support themselves and their families.

Commissioner Wayne Johnson also said about the delayed increase that the “damage was minimal if any.” This remark was out of step with the realities faced by minimum wage workers in this country.

On January 13, ten of our members attended the County Commissioners meeting and two of our members testified against the delay. They confronted Commissioner Wayne Johnson about his comments.  One of our members explained how this increase would affect him as a minimum wage student worker. Jaen Ugalde said, “$312 could help us pay for a month of rent, or for a portion of our books.” Lorenzo Pino urged the commissioners to vote on the measure that night to bring relief to Bernalillo County’s low-income families.

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Thanks to our members’ presence and heartfelt testimony, the commissioners took action that night, voting 3 to 2 in favor of a minimum wage cost of living adjustment. It will take effect on January 26, 2015. Commissioners Maggie Stebbins, Debbie O’Malley and Art De La Cruz voted in favor. Unfortunately Wayne Johnson and Lonnie Talbert were the two votes against resolving the delayed cost of living adjustment.

By standing together as Working New Mexico, our members shed light on the plight of low wage workers and their families – and won. Without our members’ work, Bernalillo County officials could have easily gotten away with delaying a much needed cost-of-living adjustment. Working New Mexico, a project of Working America, is committed to standing up for our communities and putting the issues of everyday working people front and center—and when possible, forcing our leaders to take immediate action.

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This Week, We Could Expand One of the Nation’s Highest Living Wages to Thousands More Families

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, Working America members will attend the final county commission public hearing to express their support for an ordinance establishing a living wage in the unincorporated areas of Santa Fe County.

The City of Santa Fe has had one of the nation’s highest minimum wages since a living wage ordinance was adopted in 2002. Thanks to a cost-of-living adjustment, it will be $10.65 as of March 1, 2014.  But outside the city limits, thousands workers in surrounding Santa Fe County are still working under the statewide minimum of $7.25 an hour–and in places with weak enforcement, even less.

“No one deserves to live below the poverty line,” said Reel Working America member Willie Martin. Martin and other Working America members collected hundreds of petition signatures in support of the Santa Fe County Living Wage Ordinance.

Both houses of the New Mexico legislature passed a minimum wage increase last year, but Governor Susana Martinez vetoed the measure, calling it a “gimmick.” Recognizing the growing popularity of raising the minimum wage, Gov. Martinez vetoed the bill on Good Friday at the beginning of a long weekend, and scrubbed any mention of the veto from her taxpayer-funded official website.

That didn’t deter Working America members and organizers from pressuring the leaders of the state’s largest county, Bernalillo, to expand Albuquerque’s minimum wage increase countywide. And it won’t stop us from expanding Santa Fe’s groundbreaking living wage to that entire county either. Taken together, we’ve raised wages for roughly 40 percent of New Mexico’s population despite Gov. Martinez’s secretive veto.

Working America members include workers, consumers and business owners who support and benefit from raising the wage in Santa Fe County. Among these members there are also members of Reel Working America, a joint program of Working America and IATSE 480 for film and technical workers who don’t have a union on the job. Reel Working America is composed of background performers, film students, and filmmakers who believe Santa Fe County workers deserve to make a living wage similar to the city of Santa Fe.

Working America has 110,000 members in New Mexico and 4,500 members in Santa Fe County. Reel Working America has 1,000 members.

Learn more by liking our Working New Mexico Facebook page.

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How We’re Raising Wages in New Mexico Even Though Our Republican Governor Doesn’t Want Us To

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Like so many New Mexico workers, we were disheartened when Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a reasonable increase in the minimum wage last year.

We were even more disheartened when she scrubbed her website of any mention of the veto, and when many workers calling her office to ask about the veto couldn’t get through.

But if Gov. Martinez won’t act to improve the lives of New Mexico workers we will.

After the veto, we pressured Bernalillo County Commissioners to expand the Albuquerque minimum wage increase to the entire county. By a 3-2 vote, 10,000 workers throughout New Mexico’s largest county got a raise.

Now, we’re moving to Santa Fe County. The city of Santa Fe itself has one of the highest minimum wages in the country, a living wage of $10.51 an hour, but workers outside the city limits are barely above the federal minimum at $7.50.

Over the past six months, we’ve gathered over 6,000 signatures in support of a Santa Fe County Living Wage Ordinance that would expand the city’s living wage to the whole county. Most of those signatures were gathered by volunteers.

On Tuesday, Santa Fe County Commissioners Liz Stefanics and Miguez Chavez will introduce a bill similar to the Santa Fe County Living Wage Ordinance. We’ll be at the Commission Chambers on Grant Avenue to show our support.

On Wednesday, we’re gathering at the Center for Progress and Justice to to talk about the next steps of this campaign. Please join us.

In both Bernalillo County and Santa Fe, we’re showing Gov. Martinez and her allies that if she won’t do her job and help alleviate poverty in our state, we’re more than happy to take up the charge.

If you are able to join in on this effort, or want to be a part of our future advocacy on behalf of New Mexico’s working families, please contact me at 505-247-0371 or [email protected]

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In A Little Seen Move, County Commissioners Make Life Better for Thousands of New Mexicans

This week in Bernalillo County this first phase-in of the new minimum wage increase begins. Now 10,000 low wage workers and their families will be making $8.00 an hour instead of $7.50. Next year, it will increase again to $8.50.

Working America held a thank you event for Commissions Art De La Cruz, Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins who took measures to ensure that the law was enforceable.

Our New Mexico State Director Chelsey Evans spoke:

“This is really just an incredible day for us to celebrate the fact that 10,000 workers an increase in their paychecks, an increase in what they can spend on food, an increase on what they can spend on just their family in general so overall it’s just a really great day. We also want to take the time to than elected officials who stood up for those 10,000 workers and for our entire community.”

These commissioners included stronger enforcement mechanisms in the law such as a criminal penalty and revocation of business licenses for employers who do not comply.

At this event Working America, OLE and ProgressNow New Mexico members delivered flowers with thank you cards to the commissioners and spoke on the importance of this increase. Brenda Rodriguez, our Member Coordinator in Albuquerque, spoke next about the human impact of the increase:

“This is making a huge impact in the lives of our members, who couldn’t be here today because they are at work.

Lorenzo Pino, who lives in Bernalillo County, is grateful to have county commissioners who stand with workers and make sure that enforcement language is added to the law.

Alma Alvares, who works at McDonalds just outside the city, can now say she will receive a raise just like the rest of Albuquerque. A raise that translates to a little extra cash in her pocket, but more importantly a peace of mind that if her employer decided not to pay her, there is enforcement language that will hold consequences for her employer.

This is not something all of our members can say for Albuquerque, where some folks are getting paid as little as $5 per hour.

We are very honored to have such amazing county commissioners taking a stand for all workers in Bernalillo County and this new minimum wage law is a definitely a step in the right direction for the rest of New Mexico.”

Commissioner Debbie O’Malley spoke on behalf of her colleagues and thanked progressive groups in New Mexico for their hard work.

“This is a very good day for the county and on behalf of commissioners Art de la Cruz and Commissioner Maggie Hart-Stebbins I am here to say thank you all for the work that you put into this initiative, the work from folks like yourself, volunteers and labor who are all here today on behalf of the working people in this region in this county. I wouldn’t have happened.

You know we’re getting the credit but really the credit goes to the community, first the city of course, the initiative and approving that with an overwhelming majority, then of course it came to the county commission.

It was our honor to do this again on behalf of working families, people who work every day preparing our food, sometimes not doing the most pleasant of jobs but this says more than anything that we value families in Bernalillo county. So we very much appreciate this. Thank you very much.”

Though Bernalillo County workers got their raise, Working America is still committed to ensuring that city council members in Albuquerque and Mayor Richard J. Berry carry out the will of their constituents and enforce the minimum wage increase using similar measures to these county commissioners.

The next phase of the minimum wage increase in Bernalillo County will take place on January 1, 2014 and workers will make $8.50 an hour.

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Five Bucks An Hour When the Minimum Wage is $8.50? That’s Theft.

On Thursday, June 27, at 6:00 p.m., Working America, OLE, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, and attorneys from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty will host a clinic for workers to discuss wage theft, safety, harassment and discrimination on the job.  Attorneys will also work with the workers to come up with solutions and take next steps regarding their situations.

The clinic is part of Working America’s summer “Got Your Raise Yet?” campaign to educate low-wage workers on the recent minimum wage raise from $7.50 to $8.50 that went into effect on January 1, 2013.

The campaign will also put pressure on the Albuquerque mayor and city council, who have refused to enforce the voter-approved wage increase, though thousands of low-wage workers continue to struggle.

Organizers will distribute education materials such as tip cards in restaurants where workers are eligible for the raise. These cards will inform workers about the raise and provide them with tools to get more information and share experiences. During the “Got Your Raise Yet?” campaign, organizers and members will also actively pressure the city council and mayor’s office for enforcement through worker testimonials.

WHO: Workers, organizers with Working America, OLE and El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos and attorneys from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

WHAT: Workers clinic to discuss wage theft, safety and harassment on the job

WHEN: 6:00 p.m., Thursday, June 27, 2013

WHERE: Working America Office, 201 Coal Ave SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102

RSVP on Facebook!

Want to learn more? Contact Ianthe Metzger at [email protected] or 202-538-2026.

Are you a worker who isn’t getting paid at last $8.50 an hour, or a tipped worker who isn’t making $3.83 an hour? Text RAISE505 to 30644 to tell us your story.

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Statement by Working America on Recent Events in Bernalillo County, NM

On Tuesday night, at a hearing to consider a minimum-wage raise in Bernalillo County, a Working America staff member and a Working America member were subjected to several smears on social media by prominent figures in New Mexico politics.

The member, a 19-year-old college student from Albuquerque, and our staff member, who has advocated for workers in New Mexico for more than five years, were offering testimony about why a raise in the wage is critical to thousands of families and to the health of the county’s economy.

These degrading comments have no justification and are not fit for public discourse. We thank the community and our allies who have defended our organizers and workers over the last few days amid a frenzy of activity and attention. We have received a direct apology from one of the offending parties and the other has been suspended from his position.

While we are saddened by these comments, it is clear that a few unfortunate choices have neither dampened the victory we feel for the 10,000 working people in Bernalillo County, nor has it diminished our resolve to continue to fight for working families in New Mexico. Now, 50,000 people in Bernalillo County and Albuquerque will have a wage increase that will pour money directly back into New Mexico’s communities, businesses and economy.

We congratulate these two women for their outstanding work. We stand proudly with them and with the working families who represent the best of New Mexico.

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Largest New Mexico County Raises Minimum Wage – Despite Governor’s Opposition

Yesterday, working people in Bernalillo County won a hard-fought victory as county council members passed a minimum-wage increase by a vote of 3-2. The minimum wage will go up from $7.50 to $8.50 – an increase that will help approximately 10,000 people.

This victory was built on a similar one in Albuquerque last November, when a whopping 66 percent of voters passed a minimum wage increase in that city. As a result, over 40,000 workers got a raise at the beginning of this year.

Less than a month after Gov. Susana Martinez’ “Good Friday” veto of a statewide minimum wage increase (and her subsequent scrubbing her website of all mention of the bill), the people of Bernalillo county spoke loud and clear. Now, low-wage workers in the most populous county in New Mexico will get a modest increase in their wages – money that will be put back into the local economy, help reduce turnover, increase productivity and improve the health of small businesses and communities.

The implementation will take place in two phases: an $8.00 increase on July 1st and another increase to $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2014.

There was, and remains, overwhelming support for a living wage in New Mexico and throughout the state. Both the New Mexico House and Senate passed the one-dollar increase before Gov. Martinez vetoed it, calling it a “gimmick.”

We will continue to work diligently to ensure the wage increases will be implemented.

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