New Mexico workers celebrate statewide minimum wage increase

SANTA FE–On Monday, dozens of New Mexico workers and their families gathered to celebrate as Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a proposal that would increase the state minimum wage for the first time in over ten years.

Senate Bill 437, approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate, progressively increases the minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 per hour by 2023. Starting January 2020, the state minimum wage would be raised to $9, $10.50 in 2021, $11.50 in 2022 before settling at $12 per hour in 2023.

The newly signed law also contains the following provisions:

  • Gradually increases the “tipped credit” for tipped employees from the current $2.13 per hour to $3 per hour by 2023
  • Allows for a new sub-minimum wage for students at $8.50 per hour
  • Does not include an annual cost of living adjustment

Raising the minimum wage to $12.00/hr by 2023 would directly affect 150,901 workers or nearly 20 percent of the total workforce in the state. Directly affected workers would receive an annual increase of approximately $1,114.

A statewide minimum wage coalition mobilized hundreds of workers from across New Mexico during the session in support of a wage increase.

Below are reactions from low-wage workers and community organizations across New Mexico in celebration of the statewide minimum wage increase:

“Last month the legislature did it’s part to increase family economic security in New Mexico and today the governor fulfilled her gubernatorial campaign promise to raise the state’s minimum wage to get workers–who are the backbone of our state– one step closer to a livable wage,” said Margarita Castruita Flores a member of El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “With a salary of $12 an hour I could earn approximately $112 more per week, something that could help me pay for one of my utility bills, which I have trouble paying with my current wage. We are proud of the contributions low-wage workers like me provide to our state and we will continue our fight to ensure ALL workers in New Mexico have the opportunity to thrive.”

“Today is a victory for hard working New Mexicans who deserve a raise. We thank the Governor for signing this bill into law,” said J.D. Mathews, Political Director for New Mexico Working Families. “This is an important step towards economic security and ending poverty in our state. Our commitment to all workers receiving a living wage continues”.

“After ten years of wage stagnation, I am so happy to see our state finally moving in the right direction. This raise will give twelve thousand dollars to workers who seriously need and deserve it,” said Lauren Shimamoto, Albuquerque service worker and member of OLÉ. “Thank you Governor Lujan-Grisham for signing this bill, it’s a great first step towards a living wage and a thriving New Mexico.”

“When workers are compensated fairy, everyone wins,” said Marcela Diaz, Executive Director for Somos Un Pueblo Unido. “$12 per hour will go along way to helping working families, rural communities and local economies prosper. By signing this bill, Governor Lujan Grisham recognizes just how essential workers are to our state’s future.”

“Today New Mexican workers achieved a great victory. For a decade, they’ve seen their spending power decrease, as the minimum wage stayed the same and the cost of living went up,” said Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “They deserve wages that allow them to provide for themselves and their families. They won this raise by coming together from all across the state to demand fair wages and respect for their hard work. 

*** Video and photos from the bill signing and worker-led celebration can be found here, here, here & here.

New Mexico workers win significant wage increase

Santa F.–New Mexico workers and their families celebrated on Friday after the House of Representatives and the Senate agreed to a legislative compromise reached in conference committee that will raise the state’s minimum wage for the first time in over 10 years. The proposal now heads to the governor’s desk for final signature.

A statewide minimum wage coalition mobilized hundreds of workers from across New Mexico during the session in support of a wage hike, coalescing around Rep. Miguel García’s (D-Bernalillo) $12 minimum wage bill (HB 31).

During a conference committee late Thursday night between members of the House and Senate, led negotiations in a final compromise that:

  • Gradually increases state minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2023
  • Gradually increases the “tipped credit” for tipped employees to $3 an hour by 2023
  • Allows for a new sub-minimum wage for students at $8.50 an hour
  • Does not include an annual cost of living adjustment

Below are reactions from low-wage workers and community organizations across New Mexico:

“This is a victory for New Mexico’s working families and came about as a result of years of organizing efforts lead by low-wage workers,” said Margarita Castruita Flores a member of El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “We are proud of the contributions that low-wage workers make to our State and this compromise bill is a step in the right direction for our families to obtain financial stability. There is still a lot of work ahead and we will continue to organize our communities to obtain a living wage for all workers in New Mexico.

“Workers and champions like Rep. Miguel Garcia refused to give up,” said Marcela Diaz, Executive Director for Somos Un Pueblo Unido. “By raising the minimum wage, the legislature finally recognized that workers are the backbone of New Mexico’s economy and should be compensated fairly. Getting to $12 per hour will make a big difference for our families in rural communities and local economies.”

OLÉ member Cristal Carter said, “$12/hour by 2023 is a big win for ALL hardworking New Mexico families. We fought hard for this and it shows. Families will now have the stability they need to thrive in our communities because over 200,000 workers across the state of New Mexico will receive the raise they deserve.”

“An increase in the minimum wage will mean a better living situation for the folks in our community who need it the most — people working hard, full time and still on the brink of poverty. It was more difficult than it should have been for the voices of workers to be heard at the legislature and we will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight for a living wage and true economic security for families across New Mexico,” said J.D. Mathews, State Political Director for New Mexico Working Families Party.

“This victory is the result of workers from all across New Mexico coming together to push for wages that respect their work and allow them to provide for themselves and their families,” said Stephanie Welch, a supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “The increase will help people who receive the lowest wages in the state finally recover some of their lost spending power. It was high time they saw a raise. The cost of living has gone up over the last 10 years, but the minimum wage stayed flat.” 

Bill guaranteeing basic wage protections for home care and domestic workers awaits governor’s signature

SANTA FE— Today, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 85, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Rep. Christine Trujillo, which would ensure home care and domestic workers—the people who clean homes and deliver care for others—are protected by New Mexico’s minimum wage standards and other wage protections. The bill will now go to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for approval.

Domestic workers have been left out of many labor protections throughout history, and typically have very few options when they’re not paid. SB 85, Domestic Service in Minimum Wage Act, ends the exemptions for domestic workers from New Mexico’s wage laws—as has already been done at the federal level.

“Domestic workers and home care workers have difficult and important jobs that we depend on,” said Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “SB 85 eliminates outdated, discriminatory practices in New Mexico’s labor protections so people doing some of the toughest jobs like caring for our loved ones and cleaning our houses are treated fairly, and can seek recourse when they are not.”

New Mexico law generally requires employers to pay employees minimum wage and overtime, keep records, and pay employees in full and on time. However, like other wage laws enacted in the 1930s, it excluded large categories of work typically performed by women and people of color from the minimum wage and other protections. The New Mexico Legislature has recognized that it’s time to ensure all workers, including people who work hard in other people’s homes, are guaranteed fundamental labor protections just like everyone else.

“We are optimistic that Governor Lujan Grisham will sign SB 85 into law, guaranteeing domestic workers are no longer ignored in the eyes of the law,” said Adrienne R. Smith of New Mexico Caregivers Coalition. “Cleaning houses and taking care of elderly people or children demands dedication, time, and experience. The people who are in these life-saving roles deserve our respect and the same protections as all other workers.”

Federal law has since eliminated its exclusion of domestic workers, but without state protections, New Mexicans who work in people’s homes are not protected and may be subject to low or no pay and exploitative situations. If domestic workers were covered by New Mexico’s wage laws, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions would investigate their complaints, enforce their rights, and recover their wages and damages.

ACTION ALERT: Senate Corporations & Transportation Committee Hearing on HB31 to Raising NM’s Minimum Wage

Hardworking New Mexicans should be paid a livable wage! It’s time the state’s minimum wage is raised, including the wage for tipped workers. Join us for the 3rd Senate committee hearing on HB 31, a proposal that would increase New Mexico’s minimum wage to $12 per hour, phased in by 2022, and set the server wage at 30 percent of the regular minimum wage.

WHAT: Senate Corporations & Transportation Committee Hearing on HB31

WHEN: Tuesday, March 5th starting at 2:00 p.m.

WHERE: Room 311, the Roundhouse, 490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501

                     (Make sure to arrive before 2:00 p.m. to get a seat!)

No one should be expected to work for next to nothing. Raising New Mexico’s minimum wage, for the first time in over a decade is a step in the right direction to ensure that ALL families in our state have a better future!

Can’t make it in person? Here are some ways you can still support:

Tipped workers like me deserve a raise, too

By Paloma Mexika, New Mexico Center On Law And Poverty Communications Associate
(This op-ed appeared in the Albuquerque Journal)

Every worker should be paid a livable wage, but the Albuquerque Journal would have you believe that servers will lose our entire livelihood if the minimum wage is raised. They paint a picture of restaurants without servers, and of diners ordering at counters, picking up their own food and drinks and busing their own tables.

Until very recently, I depended on tips for years. In addition to my base wage, my tips put me just above the poverty line and barely afforded me the cost of living in Albuquerque.

The minimum wage has not been changed in New Mexico for a decade, but a bill to increase it statewide is making its way through the Legislature. 

House Bill 31 would raise the minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $12 by mid-2021 and tie further increases to inflation. It also adjusts the “tip credit” that allows employers to pay tipped employees $2.13 an hour as long as their tips bring them up to the minimum wage. HB 31 would make the tip credit 30 percent of the prevailing minimum wage.

The Journal claims that increasing the minimum wage and adjusting the tip credit will force restaurants to shut down or drastically reduce service. Really? Do opponents of the increase really advocate for a business model predicated on paying servers only $2.13 an hour out of business revenue? How do restaurants adjust when other fixed prices go up like gas, electricity, food or alcohol?

As seen in other states that have increased or removed the tip credit, the restaurant industry did not change and is healthy and expanding. When low-wage workers like myself are able to earn a livable income and have even a little bit of spending money and free time, we go out to eat and shop at mom-and-pop locally owned businesses. 

The higher wages go right back into our local economy, and as a generous tipper myself, I hope employers are paying a livable wage so that my tip is just extra for a job well done.

The Journal claims that going out to eat would suddenly become so drastically unattractive that the service industry as we know it would cease to exist if tipped employees are paid a livable wage. When 

Albuquerque increased tipped employees’ sub-minimum wage, it didn’t devastate the restaurant industry. Our tips didn’t change, and our paychecks were actually decent.

Raising the minimum wage is better for companies in the long run even if it means a slight adjustment at first. When employees earn a livable income, they don’t have to work multiple jobs, plus they have more time and energy to put into their work.

Even if there were a tradeoff in working a few less hours, I would be willing to adjust to it because at least I would know I and my counterparts throughout the state wouldn’t have to rely entirely on inconsistent tips.

No one should be expected to work for next to nothing. But oftentimes servers don’t have a choice. Shouldn’t employers share more of the responsibility to ensure everyone is paid at least the minimum?




ACTION ALERT: Senate Public Affairs Committee Hearing on HB 31 to raise NM’s minimum wage

New Mexico’s minimum wage has remained stagnant for years. There hasn’t been a raise in the state’s minimum wage in over a decade. It’s time all workers in our state get a raise!

Show your support for HB 31 this Saturday!

WHAT: Senate Public Affairs Committee hearing of HB 31

WHEN: Saturday, February 23rd at 2 p.m.  (Make sure to arrive early to get a seat!)

WHERE: Santa Fe Roundhouse Room 321 (490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501)

HB 31 would increase the state minimum wage to $12 per hour phased in over the next three years for New Mexico’s workers and would increase wages for tipped workers as well!

Find the Facts on Tipped Wages in HB 31 Right Here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Factsheet-HB-31-Tipped-Wages-2019-02-08.pdf

Senate passes bill guaranteeing basic wage protections for domestic workers

SANTA FE— Today, the New Mexico Senate passed SB 85, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Rep. Christine Trujillo, which would ensure home care and domestic workers—the people who clean homes and deliver care for others—are protected by New Mexico’s minimum wage standards and other wage protections.

Historically, domestic workers have been left out of many labor protections and have little recourse when not paid. SB 85, Domestic Service in Minimum Wage Act, removes exemptions for domestic workers from New Mexico’s wage laws—as has already been done at the federal level.

“Everyone deserves to be paid a fair wage for their work,” said Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “SB 85 would eliminate archaic and discriminatory treatment in New Mexico’s labor protections so people who work hard in other people’s homes and as caregivers are treated fairly and can seek recourse when they are not.”

New Mexico law generally requires employers to pay employees minimum wage and overtime, keep records, and pay employees in full and on time. However, like other wage laws enacted in the 1930s, it excluded large categories of work typically performed by women and people of color from the minimum wage and other protections.

“Domestic workers deserve the same protections as other workers” said Adrienne R. Smith of New Mexico Caregivers Coalition. “Cleaning houses and taking care of people demands dedication, time, and experience. It’s time we changed how we value this work and the people who perform it.”

Federal law has since eliminated its exclusion of domestic workers, but without state protections, New Mexicans who work in people’s homes are not protected and may be subject to low or no pay and exploitative situations. If domestic workers were covered by New Mexico’s wage laws, the N.M. Department of Workforce Solutions would investigate their complaints, enforce their rights, and recover their wages and damages.

The bill will now be assigned to a committee in the House of Representatives for consideration.

Action Alert: House floor vote on HB 31 raising New Mexico’s minimum wage

New Mexicans keep working harder and harder but haven’t seen a raise in the state minimum wage in over 10 years.

It’s time our state increase the minimum wage for all workers, including tipped workers.

Show your support for HB 31! Don’t let tipped workers and their families behind, they deserve a raise too. Join us!

WHAT: House floor vote on HB 31

WHEN: Wednesday, February 13, 4:30 p.m. (subject to change)

WHERE: House of Representatives gallery at the Roundhouse (490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501)

HB 31 would increase the state minimum wage to $12 per hour phased in over the next three years for New Mexico’s workers, including tipped workers, who would earn a higher base wage plus tips.

If you can’t make it out make sure to:

Get on social media and share your support for HB 31

FIND THE FACTS ON TIPPED WAGES IN HB 31 RIGHT HERE

Hard working minimum wage workers, including tipped workers fight to raise the state’s minimum wage

SANTA FE, NM –  On Monday, February 11, dozens of low-wage workers, including tipped workers, their families, and allies will attend the House floor debate and vote on a proposal to increase the state minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade.

HB 31, sponsored by Representative Miguel Garcia (D-Bernalillo), would improve New Mexico’s stagnant wages and increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $10.00 beginning July 1, 2019 until reaching $12 an hour in 2021. The proposal would include an annual increase to adjust for inflation, beginning July 1, 2022. Tipped workers would also receive the new state minimum wage under the proposal, plus tips.

WHAT: House floor debate and vote on HB 31

WHEN: Monday, February 11 (House convenes at 10:30 a.m.)

WHERE: House of Representatives gallery? at the Roundhouse (490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM 87501)

*Interviews will be available upon request

Wage theft lawsuit concludes in win for New Mexico workers

 

Judge approves final class action settlement agreement in lawsuit brought by low-wage workers against the Department of Workforce Solutions for failing to enforce New Mexico’s wage payment laws

SANTA FE – Today, after hearing public testimony, First Judicial District Court Judge David K. Thomson approved a class action settlement agreement between workers and workers’ rights organizations and the Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) that ensures state government will carry out its duty to enforce New Mexico’s strong anti-wage theft laws and hold employers accountable when they violate these laws.

“This is a victory for low-wage workers and proof that when we come together, we can hold powerful institutions accountable,” said Jose “Pancho” Olivas, a member of Somos Gallup, Somos Un Pueblo Unido’s membership team in McKinley County and lead plaintiff in the complaint. “For too long wage thieves were let off the hook. Because of this settlement, DWS will not only enforce our 2009 anti-wage theft law but will do more to ensure workers have a fair shot at recouping their stolen wages.”

The class action settlement agreement is a win for New Mexico workers and is the result of years of work by the workers and workers’ rights organizations who advocated for passage of a 2009 law imposing stronger anti-wage theft protections and who filed a 2017 lawsuit to require DWS to enforce those protections.

“We all deserve to be treated fairly by our employers and paid for every hour that we work,” said Elizabeth Wagoner of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “DWS diligently worked with us on this settlement agreement to make sure that hardworking people who experience violations of New Mexico’s wage payment laws can access their legal right to an investigation of their claims and recover wages owed.”

“In 2009, low-wage workers came together to strengthen protections against wage theft in New Mexico,” said Gabriela Ibañez Guzmán, staff attorney with Somos Un Pueblo Unido’s Worker Center and co-counsel in the lawsuit. “This legislation passed both chambers with a wide margin because wage theft hurts everyone, workers, law-abiding businesses and local economies.  But our laws are only as good as the appropriate government agencies are willing to enforce them. This settlement sends a message that enforcement should be a priority.”

Now that the court has issued final approval of the settlement agreement, DWS will begin accepting requests from workers to re-investigate wage claims that DWS did not initially accept or correctly investigate. This includes workers who experienced the following problems:

  • DWS rejected or returned the claim form without investigating the claim;
  • DWS rejected, closed, or incompletely investigated the wage claim because of an unlawful $10,000 cap or one-year time limit;
  • DWS made a decision in favor of the employer for an improper jurisdictional reason;
  • DWS closed the wage claim after the employee or employer missed a deadline or hearing.

“When my sister and I went to the Department of Workforce Solutions to file our wage claims, we experienced problems communicating with the people in this office because they did not provide translation services,” said Sabina Armendariz, a low-wage immigrant worker, single mother, and member of El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos. “Now, all Spanish speakers will receive equal access to DWS services. This settlement agreement is an example of what can happen when low-wage workers organize to confront labor abuses and work to hold accountable the very government institutions entrusted with enforcing the laws. We encourage other workers to come forward and present their cases.”

Several workers plan on filing their wage theft complaints with DWS after the hearing.

“I look forward to filing my wage theft complaint along with three of my co-workers,” said Yesenia Sanchez, mother of three children and a member Somos Un Pueblo Unido’s United Worker Center. “I am happy to know that our complaints will be taken seriously and not be turned away.”

Beginning on March 16, DWS will also take several steps to notify workers about their rights, including running radio ads in English and Spanish, providing information about the wage claim process on the homepage of the DWS website, mailing notice to the class with instructions about the right to request a re-investigation, and posting notices in all DWS offices statewide.

The case, Olivas v. Bussey, was filed in January 2017 by four victims of wage theft and workers’ rights organizations El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos, New Mexico Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFÉ), Organizers in the Land of Enchantment (OLÉ), and Somos Un Pueblo Unido. The plaintiffs claimed that DWS had failed to investigate and resolve wage claims concerning violations of New Mexico’s wage payment laws.

Plaintiff workers and organizations and DWS filed a joint motion on December 20, 2017 in the First Judicial District Court asking Judge Thomson to approve the class action settlement agreement.

“Language barriers should not be a reason why New Mexican workers suffer from wage theft. People with limited English language access should be kept fully informed by state government agencies such as DWS and should not have additional limitations when filing or pursuing wage theft claims. Our message is loud and clear; we will not rest until we end wage theft and labor abuses in New Mexico,” said Javier Castillo Chavez, a low-wage immigrant worker and member of El Centro who’s wage claim case was successful thanks to the new DWS regulations put in place because of the class action settlement agreement.

In addition to re-investigating prior wage claims and notifying workers of their rights, DWS has also implemented the following policies to end the practices challenged in the lawsuit:

  • LRD investigates all wage claims, regardless of their dollar value;
  • LRD takes enforcement action on wage claims going back three years, or longer if the violation is part of a continuing course of conduct;
  • Employers who fail to pay minimum or overtime wages must pay damages to wage claimants, calculated at three times the value of the unpaid wages;
  • LRD no longer closes wage claims for impermissible procedural reasons; and
  • LRD provides language access services to all wage claimants who need it by requesting each claimant’s language preference on the claim form, providing interpretation in each telephonic and in-person interaction, translating all form letters and claim forms into Spanish, allowing claimants to fill out claim forms in any language, and offering an interpreter to anyone who telephones the agency.

In addition, LRD has revamped its policies and procedures so that the agency is in compliance with the New Mexico wage laws. This includes the adoption of a publicly-available investigations manual that lays out how LRD enforces the law, which LRD and attorneys for the plaintiffs are writing together. Attorneys for the plaintiffs will also review worker case files to identify wage claims that LRD may consider for workplace-wide enforcement action.

People who experienced a problem with a wage claim at DWS should request a re-investigation or contact:

The notice of rights, claim form, and instructions for requesting a re-investigation will be available in a link from the DWS website homepage on or before March 16.

Elizabeth Wagoner of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is lead counsel on a legal team that includes the Center’s Gail Evans, Stephanie Welch, and Juan Martinez, Santa Fe attorney Daniel Yohalem, and Gabriela Ibañez Guzmán of Somos Un Pueblo Unido.