By: Jonathan Baca, Staff Reporter
The proposed city ordinance that would increase the city’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour is currently in limbo because of a typo, said CNM student and Organizers in the Land of Enchantment member Lucia Fraire.
The mistake is a single sentence in which the ordinance states that employers, rather than employees, would be paid $8.50 an hour. Fraire said that the mistake is clearly a simple typographical error that does not confuse voters or change the true meaning of the ordinance.
“It’s definitely a fight,” said Fraire.
OLE New Mexico collected 26,000 signatures from Albuquerque voters to present the issue on the Nov. 6 presidential election ballot, but the typo in the ordinance has slowed the process and could completely end it, said Director of City Council Services Laura Mason.
“That’s added a whole new twist to the issue,” said Mason.
OLE New Mexico’s petition enacted a rarely used legislative process called Direct Legislation, said Mason. Once the signatures were collected, the city clerk verified and counted them, and the petition was then presented to the City Council. The Council did not rule on it, so according to the city charter it must now go to a special ballot election, said Mason.
“There’s all sorts of factors involved and everyone’s been knocking their heads against the wall to try to get it figured out,” said Mason.
Some people do not want the issue to appear on any ballot and are doing everything they can to defeat it, said Fraire.
The Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce has been very vocal about its opposition to the increase, saying that it will hurt the local economy by costing businesses more money, said Fraire. The New Mexico Restaurant Association and the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties are also opposed to the potential wage increase, said Julian Moya, Policy Analyst for Councilman Ray Garduno.
NMRA and NAIOP representatives did not immediately respond to an interview request.
Fraire said she and Mexico worked hard to collect the mandatory signatures from registered voters throughout Albuquerque. her colleagues at OLE New
The issue of the typo has left OLE New Mexico with only one option — to sue the city in an attempt to ensure that voters have the chance to decide on the issue, said Fraire.
“We’re competing with people that have lots of money,” said Fraire.
She said that residents of Albuquerque, including many CNM students and student employees, would benefit from the increase, and were very supportive of the petition.
“It’s just not a living wage,” she said of the current minimum wage.
The fate of the ordinance may be up in the air, but the fact that it has made it this far is an impressive achievement, said Moya.
“For this coalition to collect 26,000 signatures is incredibly impressive and speaks to both the organizing by the coalition and the hunger and interest from the community for a living wage,” Moya said on behalf of Councilman Garduno.
Fraire said OLE New Mexico is not going to give up any time soon.
“We’re going to have many roadblocks like this along the way. We’re just going to keep on going and keep jumping over every hurdle they throw at us,” she said.
Fraire said that although she feels confident that the voters of Albuquerque will support the increase, the battle is not over yet. She said that while signing the petition was a great way to help, people who believe in the cause should continue to make an effort.
“Everyone has to play a part. They need to get out to the polls. They need to get their friends to the polls,” said Fraire.