Minimum wage battle update

Last night, the City Council voted 5-4 to defeat Councilor Martin Heinrich's bill to put a minimum wage increase on the Oct. 4 ballot. There is still a chance that voters could decide whether Albuquerque's minimum wage increases to $7.15 an hour, $2 higher than the federal minimum wage, but it depends on the work of petitioners. More on that to come in next week's Alibi. But for an immediate look into the minds of some of our Councilors—through the eyes of the Albuquerque Journal, that is—get a load of this article by one of the Duke City's most formerly intrepid beat reporters, Mr. Jim Ludwick. [link]

My favorite quote comes from City Councilor Craig Loy, a retired APD Captain, who I'm sad to say sounds like a chucklehead when asked to comment on just about anything. This time he really shines in that capacity, explaining his vote: "I'm not going to support this bill. I just believe that people getting a $2-an-hour raise, it's not going to help them significantly." Hey Loy, let's just lower it to $3.15 an hour—that probably won't hurt anyone either, “significantly.”

And then there is Brad Winter, saying he opposed the measure because it's not “a local issue.”

Then there is this from the Albuquerque Tribune [link]: Jim O'Neill, who spoke before the council on behalf of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said passage of the bill would send a message to businesses looking to move here that "the city is willing to interfere with the internal conduct of private business."

You're absolutley right Jim. The city should stop interfering with the internal conduct of private business. We could start by getting rid of the Industrial Revenue Bond welfare sweepstakes. Every time some well-connected government trough feeder comes asking for a hand-out for their business (a certain mattress company, an airplane factory—come to mind), the Chamber is right there to advocate on their behalf. But we wouldn't want government interefering with conduct of private business, would we?

All right boys, let's get them thinking caps on next time and really say something that convinces the public that forcing Wal-Mart to buck-up is such a bad idea. Wal-Mart by-the-way is the largest private employer in New Mexico and operates the third largest corporate political action committee in the nation. Their deli counter at the San Mateo superstore probably employs more people than Eclipse Aviation has on it's entire statewide bankroll. The Walton family is the richest in the world, worth tens of billions of dollars. An executive once bragged that Medicaid was the company's health benefits plan because so many of it's low paid employees qualified for government assistance. Would it be such a bad thing to require them to pay employees a little more if they are going to put all the other local small businesses in the neighborhood out of business by under-selling them?

Update: After giving it a little more thought, I don't doubt the issue is being driven by election year politics. Why? Because Heinrich's bill could have easily been written as an ordinance, instead of putting it on the ballot. But he chose the path that makes the minimum wage more of a wedge issue and that does seem like a bit of a get out the vote campaign.

Councilor Sally Mayer, according to news reports, called the bill just that and said the ploy, if it is aploy, just “makes me sick.” Of course, Sally wants to put a voter ID initiative on the ballot. Meanwhile, Councilor Michael Cadigan has already offered that as an ordinance. The Council could just vote on Cadigan's bill, instead of take up Mayer's call for a ballot referendum. But if they did that, Mayer wouldn't be able to use the issue as a get-out-the-vote campaign aimed at Republicans. Bottom line: if Heinrich's bill is a get-out-the-vote campaign, then so is Mayer's voter I.D. bill. Maybe it's Mayer's own hypocrisy that is making her feel sick.