Apr 13 - 19, 2006 
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Making the Wage

An update on the minimum wage

By Marisa Demarco

Thanks to a new bill by City Council President Martin Heinrich, a possible minimum-wage hike is on the Council's plateagain. Here are the basics:

Nuts and Bolts

If Heinrich's newest proposal passes, Albuquerque's minimum wage would rise to $6.75 an hour on Jan. 1, 2007. On the first of the year in 2008, it would climb again to $7.15. By Jan. 1, 2009, the hourly minimum would stretch another 35 cents, for a grand total of $7.50. Today the minimum rests at the federal standard of $5.15.

Past is Present

Set the stage for June 2005. Councilor Heinrich enters with a bill to put the option of raising the city's minimum wage on the October ballot. After much debate, the proposal is defeated, 5-4. Against the measure were Councilors Brad Winter, Michael Cadigan, Sally Mayer, Craig Loy and Tina Cummins.

June-July 2005. After the bill's failure in the Council, the Albuquerque Living Wage Campaign comes into full force in Albuquerque, and gathers petitions to put the issue on the ballot. They are successful.

October 2005. Voters kill the wage increase by a narrow margin (the proposal was defeated by 1,479 votes, with 49.1 percent of voters in favor and 50.9 percent against).

January 2006. Various wage-increase bills spring up at the state level during the 30-day Legislative Session. None make it through before the end of the session.

Trimming Down

Past minimum-wage bills included major sticking points, such as provisions that would require the minimum wage to rise with inflation and raising the base pay for tipped workers, such as waitresses and waiters. Such provisions have been removed from the newest version, with an exception that in the case of tipped workers, if tips don't add up to the minimum hourly wage, employers would be required to compensate.

Next Up

The measure will be heard during a special meeting on Thursday, April 20, in City Council chambers (One Civic Plaza, Downtown). To contact your councilor, visit www.cabq.gov/council.

Word of Mouth

According to Deborah James, Mayor Chavez' spokesperson, there may be some negotiation between Heinrich and the mayor before the bill is signed if it passes through the Council. However, she says, "I believe they're on the same page to enact a higher minimum wage in our city." James notes that the mayor would have preferred for the wage hike to have happened at the federal or state level.

Heinrich says he's cautiously optimistic that his new bill is going to pass. "If it doesn't pass, I would fully expect that the advocates [for a minimum wage increase] will take up a ballot initiative again," he adds. And though he supports the idea that the wage should rise with inflation, he says he didn't feel it was something he could get past this Council or the mayor. Still, he says, he's glad low-wage workers in Albuquerque are going to get such a substantial raise if the measure becomes law.

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