Local Group Drafts Minimum Wage Proposal

Mar 12, 2014

Communities in Action and Faith tells KRWG News it has a first draft of the petition it will give to the City of Las Cruces.

"We wanna make sure that people are getting paid fairly."

I talked to executive director, Sarah Nolan.
She says they need 2,500 registered voter signatures for a petition to become a question on the November ballot…should the minimum wage be increased?

"That we would want the minimum wage raised…to $10.10 an hour by January 1, 2016."

That's the draft language.  Nolan says while it isn't set in stone, CAFe also wants to see restaurant workers receiving $10.10 before tips and indexing, or a cost-of-living increase, built in.

The city has already planned a public forum on the matter.

"With Santa Fe and Albuquerque already taking action…I think at some point Las Cruces needs to review this discussion and revisit it."

Ahead of the forum, councilor for District 1, Miguel Silva, weighs in.

"If the right proposal came forth in front of the council, that the council would probably put some serious consideration…into passing some sort of ordinance that dealt with minimum wage, but it would have to be the right proposal."

A former business owner and known on the council as someone who aligns with small business interests, Silva says he didn't agree with recent past increases. It wasn't because of the dollar figures alone….

"I think that the minimum wage proposals that have been brought forth in the past had shortcomings."

The structure of change - he says - has always been the problem.

"They have been very complex…the proposal needs to be very simple."

Another city councilor, Olga Pedroza represents district 3, the region with arguably the most shopping, including the Mesilla Valley Mall.

"I think there were probably necessary compromises that had to be made…to pass minimum wage originally, but they're still there."

She focused on employment law while in law school at UNM.

"I think the tipped employees is one of those exemptions…and, yes, I think people do take advantage of that."

Pedroza wants to see a minimum wage in Las Cruces between $10 and $15. She is aware it could sound extreme, but she says one factor has been left out of the equation.

"You know, you hear about increased prices if wages go up. You hear about lost jobs if wages go up. You do not hear about the profits made at the corporate level."

She says she realizes small businesses could suffer, but national chains would be fine and benefit workers. She says tipped employees should receive $10.10 plus tips.

Councilors on both sides are urging constituents to call and come to the public forum. For CAFe, the wording of their proposal is important.

"Let's sit down and work out what would be a fair increment to raising the minimum wage that would not only help businesses, but also help the worker."

It is important to gather 2,500 signatures to place it on the ballot. It would be even more important when it's time for voters to decide.