The upcoming Oct. 3 municipal ballot just got a little more complicated. Stuck between a citizen-driven, court mandated ballot initiative—producers and workers if you will—and some pissed off business owners—
A couple weeks ago Mayor Richard Berry vetoed an election resolution because of the ballot wording for the summary of the Albuquerque Healthy Workforce Ordinance, the latest in a series of setbacks for the legislation.
If approved the ordinance would require businesses with a physical presence in the city to provide paid sick leave for full-time, part-time and temporary workers. In April, a handful of local businesses filed a lawsuit against the city. These businesses argued against the measure appearing on the Oct. 3 ballot due to what they say is “logrolling”—supposedly a form of voter fraud—alleging that the proposed law bundles different issues into one measure. A district judge ruled in favor of the measure, ruling that it will be placed on the ballot but the entire 7-page ordinance must also be on the ballot. The judge did not address having a summary of the lengthy legislation on the ballot as well.
In addition to adding the second sick leave question, Councilors also reversed a prior amendment requiring a paper copy of the ordinance in each voting booth and for the summary of the Healthy Workforce Ordinance to be on the ballot in regular type size even if the text of the 7-page ordinance is in smaller type. Opponents of the Healthy Workforce Ordinance say the summary does not include all the provisions of the full ordinance and people may only read the summary and not the entire text. Proponents say voters are smarter than that. This means the entire 7-page question will be on the ballot, without a separate summary, in whatever size type the city clerk deems is necessary.
Several dozen folks turned out to the special meeting to mostly speak out against the Healthy Workforce Ordinance ballot initiative. Many wanted the question off the ballot altogether. Councilor Trudy Jones explained that the Council has no power to remove the Healthy Workforce Ordinance from the ballot because it is a citizen-driven question. They can however place voter questions of their own on the ballot.
Andrea Serrano from Olé New Mexico, a non-profit working on the passage of the Healthy Workforce Ordinance said, “It is a bit insulting to insinuate that voters don’t know what they are voting for and don’t do research. Let’s get away from this ‘us versus them’ mentality and focus on the 107,000 workers in Albuquerque who don’t have sick leave.”
Several business organizations such as the Hispano Chamber of Commerce, Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, a roofing contractor’s association and many others said this measure will cause them undue hardship because of increased recordkeeping and costs, will kill jobs and drive businesses out of state. One business owner simply stated: “No one is going to regulate me, we got enough regulations.”
There were a handful of businesses speaking out to support the Healthy Workforce measure. The owner of Nexus Brewery said he already has paid sick leave for all of his employees. He said it is misinformation that this measure is not good for businesses. He said paid sick leave for all is good for his employees, his customers and good for his business.
The amended election resolution now goes back to the mayor for his signature before the city clerk can work on designing the official ballot. The City Council could not override his veto because that can only be done during a regular meeting. The Council does not have any regular meetings scheduled in July, and therefore had to call a special meeting to amend the election resolution. The next regularly scheduled City Council meeting falls on the first Monday of August.