By: Jonathan Baca, Senior Reporter | Photo By: Stefany Olivas, Managing Editor
The proposed ordinance to raise the city’s minimum wage was officially included on the Nov. 6 ballot by the Supreme Court of New Mexico, said County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver.
After being denied in District Court because of concerns with the scope of the proposal which would raise the state minimum wage to $8.50, OLE New Mexico, a community organization group, appealed the decision.
The State Supreme Court then upheld the validity of the petition and ordered the County Clerk to place the ordinance on the ballot, said student and OLE NM organizer Lucia Fraire.
“It’s a huge victory for us obviously, but there’s a lot more work to be done,” said Fraire.
Oliver said putting the ordinance on the Nov. 6 ballot may have saved Albuquerque taxpayers around $400,000.
“My position was that I preferred this to go on the ballot because it would have prevented the need for another, separate, election around or on the same day as the General Election. This could have been hugely complicated for my office and very confusing for voters,” said Oliver.
Although the State Supreme Court voted to put the issue on the ballot, the ordinance’s legal troubles are far from over, said Fraire.
If the ordinance is approved by voters, it is likely that the city will sue again to get it thrown out because of a number of legal issues, said Fraire.
In addition to a typographical error in the language of the ordinance, District Court Judge Nash brought up a problem with the scope of the proposal. The proposal requires too many changes to go into effect at once, said Nash
“Those are issues we’ll have to deal with, but right now the important thing is for everyone to get out and vote,” she said.
The Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Restaurant Association have spoken out against the proposal. Neither group responded to requests for comment.
OLE New Mexico is preparing for a large canvassing campaign called Get Out the Vote, in an attempt to mobilize voters and educate them about the existence and importance of the minimum wage ordinance, said Fraire.
“We want everyone at the polls to know about the wage increase and to support it,” she said.
Other organizations are also getting involved and showing their support. On Thursday Sept. 20, activists and concerned citizens from many different organizations held a rally at Yale Park on UNM campus, said former student Tom Dent.
“It’s the right thing to do. We’ve just been labeled the poorest state in America, so we have to do whatever it takes to lift ourselves up economically,” said Dent.
Groups represented at the rally were the Sierra Club, New Mexico Democrats, Occupy Wall Street, and OLE NM, said Occupy member Jake Cook.
“Right now, we have 49 million people living in poverty, 97 million people are near poverty, and we’ve got to do something to change that,” said Cook.
Dent said Thursday’s rally was the first of many planned demonstrations and activities to build awareness and support for the minimum wage ordinance.
Although the battle will not likely be over even after Nov. 6, Fraire said that OLE NM is still working hard, and that she is not giving up.
“Volunteer with our Get Out the Vote campaign. Tell your friends. Most importantly, go and vote on November 6,” she said.
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