Julia Castro, owner of Café Castro in Santa Fe, said she pays all of her employees more than the minimum wage because it improves their quality of life and morale, and leads to less turnover at her business, which can ultimately cost more in the long run. Castro spoke in favor of raising the statewide minimum wage during a press conference on Tuesday in the Capitol.
“I feel very strong about paying my workers a decent wage,” said Castro, who pays more the required minimum raise in Santa Fe, which is currently the highest in the state at more than $10 an hour. “I would be ashamed if they were only making minimum wage. We need to stand up as business owners.” Castro added her own lifestyle is not altered at all even though she pays her employees more than she is required. Ultimately, is just comes down to whether she can buy a new car every year or taking a luxury vacation.
Raising the minimum raise during this legislative session remains a top priority for Democratic senators who remain quite optimistic that New Mexicans will overwhelmingly approve the measure if given a choice on the ballot.
“Raising the minimum raise for New Mexicans is not only a civil rights issue, it’s also a human rights issue,” Senator William Soules (D-37, Dona Ana). “In our laws there are protections for businesses, there are protections for corporations. This is a protection for citizens.”
Sen. Soules spoke in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 13 (SJR13), sponsored by Senator Richard Martinez (D-5, Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Santa Fe), which would raise minimum wage at a level tied to the consumer price index dating back to 2009. If passed, the measure would be put on the ballot for voters to decide at the next general election in November.
If adjusted today using the annual CPI back to 2009, the minimum wage would be adjusted from the current statewide $7.50 to an estimated $8.20 or $8.30, Senator Soules said. “This is actually lower than the rate we passed last year,” he added. “Research shows that the economy heats up when wages move up. When the lowest paid workers get a raise they spend it immediately. Raising the minimum wage to moderate levels, of which this does, revs up the economy.”
Israel Chavez, a University of New Mexico student who works as a server at an Albuquerque restaurant, said he and many others greatly benefitted when Albuquerque residents voted to raise the minimum raise. However, he said he knows people in other parts of the state who are still working at the entry-level wage and have been denied increases while raising families.
“All workers in New Mexico deserve a raise,” Chavez said. “Not everyone in the state got a raise. We need to help these families. Prices continue to go up, the wages don’t.”
“Every worker in New Mexico should call Governor Martinez and say, ‘Thank you for the pay cut!’” said Senator Jacob Candelaria (D-26, Bernalillo), who added that last year Martinez signed a major tax cut for corporations doing business in New Mexico on the backs of local governments and everyday citizens. “New Mexico has yet to see the benefit of that tax cut.”
Senator Martinez said most of the minimum-wage earners in the state are adults and many of them are supporting families. He said there are already 21 states requiring minimum wages that are higher than the federal rate.
“In 2013, on Easter Sunday, Governor Martinez vetoed the last minimum wage,” Senator Martinez said. “She called it a ‘job killer.’ I challenge the governor to see if she could survive on a minimum wage.”