Everyone who works for a living should be able to raise a family and pay their bills. After a long and challenging fight, and a decade of stagnant wages, hard working New Mexicans finally got a raise in 2020. Workers from across New Mexico successfully mobilized for a minimum wage increase in 2019. In 2021, workers successfully fought to eliminate exemptions from the higher state minimum wage for youth. The 2021 minimum wage is $10.50 an hour and will increase annually until reaching $12 an hour in 2023. The new more inclusive minimum wage directly impacts 150,000 workers in our state—nearly 20% of the workforce. NMCLP will monitor the increase to ensure employers are implementing the law fairly.
Despite New Mexico having some of the strongest wage laws in the country, some workers are excluded from these basic wage guarantees. NMCLP works with partners to end discriminatory exclusions that leave dairy workers, packers, and other agricultural workers out of these fundamental protections.
In 2019, NMCLP supported workers and worker organizing groups to help pass legislation that ended the outdated and discriminatory exclusion of domestic and home care workers from our state wage law. As a result, tens of thousands of workers who do some of the hardest and most important work like caring for others’ loved ones and cleaning houses are included in New Mexico’s minimum wage standards and other wage protections.
People should be able to earn a living without putting their health and safety at risk. If they are injured at work, their employers should be accountable.
Workers’ compensation laws require employers to have insurance to cover job-related injuries or illnesses; however, for decades New Mexico’s agricultural workers were excluded from these protections. In 2016, NMCLP represented workers who won a landmark court decision that found their exclusion from workers’ compensation was discriminatory and violated the state constitution. We work with community partners to ensure agricultural employees can exercise their right to receive workers’ compensation and continue to monitor remaining barriers.
Agricultural work is especially hazardous. Yet, farm workers face significant obstacles getting the health and safety protections guaranteed by law. Agricultural employers often do not provide adequate shade, sufficient bathroom breaks, training on hazardous pesticides, adequate tools, and other legally mandated measures that protect workers from injury. During the Covid-19 pandemic, farm workers reported their employers failed to provide minimal health and safety protections to prevent the spread of Covid-19, including face masks and minimal social distancing requirements.
As a founding member of the New Mexico Coalition of Agricultural Workers and Advocates (NM CAWA), NMCLP works with community organizations to advocate for and provide resources to New Mexico farm workers and their families including:
- Advocating for state mandated health and safety protections;
- Hosting Covid-19 testing and vaccination events;
- Distributing clothes, masks, sweaters, and other necessary items for farmworkers;
- Holding online Know Your Rights events for farmworkers.
NMCLP advocates for robust enforcement of wage and anti-retaliation protections. Workers who have been unpaid or underpaid face significant obstacles in getting the money they are owed. Employers often retaliate against workers who complain of unlawful activity. Most low-wage New Mexicans rely on government agencies to enforce their rights—agencies that too frequently have failed to effectively enforce the wage laws.
In partnership with workers and worker organizing groups, we reached a groundbreaking class settlement agreement stopping the state’s illegal rejection of wage complaints. The agreement ensures the state will carry out its duty to enforce New Mexico’s anti-wage theft laws and hold employers accountable when they violate these laws by creating a wage claim investigations manual, training state workers, and providing services to workers in the language they speak. This includes a comprehensive manual for the state to use to guide wage theft enforcement. As a result of the settlement, thousands of New Mexicans are now able to recover lost wages and the case will not be dismissed until the state is in full compliance with the settlement. We continue to advocate for the Legislature to provide adequate resources to the Department of Workforce Solutions to investigate wage claims and enforce the law. Wage claimants can find information about the filing procedure on the Labor Relations Division website.
The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, numerous partners, and workers across the state successfully fought for guaranteed paid sick leave for New Mexico workers. The new law, which allows workers to earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, will go into effect July 1, 2022. Workers will no longer be forced to make the impossible choice between a paycheck and their health or the health of their children. Many workers in unincorporated parts of Bernalillo County already have the right to earn and use paid leave for any reason. Learn more about the new state law and Bernalillo County’s law here.