Regional
6:30 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Local Groups Petition Again For Min. Wage Increase

Harry Kurgans moved to Las Cruces from Los Angeles at the end of 2012.

"I lost two jobs in California due to the economy and I ran out of money…and I had no place else to go…my family welcomed me," said Kurgans.

He is 61 years old.

"I make $7.63 an hour working at Kohl's. I owned my own business. I worked for several other businesses. The only thing that was available were minimum wage jobs," said Kurgans.

He was one of several people who gathered outside Rep. Steve Pearce's Las Cruces office to deliver a petition with about 500 signatures asking Pearce to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. A group called MoveOn.Org organized the event.

Jerry Nachison is a volunteer leader with the group, CAFe and was also here.

"There are a lot of people in this district who are hurting…it would be very good if he seriously listened to them," said Nachison.

The buying power of the national minimum wage has fluctuated widely since it requires a vote from Congress that sometimes takes years to pass.

In general, the ups and downs of the wage reflect the political party in power in Congress across the years.

The last increase was enacted starting in 2007 under Republican President George W. Bush and a Congress controlled by Democrats.

Rep. Pearce, New Mexico's only Republican in Washington D.C., said this to us in a recent statement:

“A minimum wage increase sounds good on the surface, but it drives stepping-stone and entry-level jobs out of the country, eliminating opportunities for inexperienced workers.  This is extremely unfair to the poor, and those trying to find employment.  The most important thing is to develop skills among lower-skilled workers, so that they can gain experience and work their way up to high-paying jobs.  Quite simply, the minimum wage is counterproductive because it destroys these opportunities.”

Judith McCarthy also moved here from California. For her, it was to take care of her ailing mother. She is a retired artist.

"There are always going to be people who don't make as much money as other people….but for them not to make enough money to live on…isn't right," said Judith McCarthy, a retired artist.

I asked whether she would pay more for everyday items if businesses raised prices. She told me she was one step ahead of me.

"I already boycott places that don't pay their employees well.

We don't have official numbers on how many people in Las Cruces make minimum wage that are near retirement age, but people like Kurgens are not alone.

"I work with a lot of people who are in college, but there are some older people like me and it's tough."