Business Groups Fight Albuquerque on Wage Laws

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) — Restaurant and real estate groups and New Mexico’s version of the Chamber of Commerce sued Albuquerque on Monday, for raising the city’s minimum wage and putting a paid sick-leave law on this year’s ballot.

Lead plaintiff The Association of Commerce and Industry “serves as the state chamber of commerce,” it says in its lawsuit in Bernalillo County Court. Its co-plaintiffs are the New Mexico Restaurant Association and NAIOP, a commercial real estate development corporation. Together, the three groups claim to have about 1,865 in New Mexico, 1,060 of them in Albuquerque, the seat of Bernalillo County.

Bernalillo County voters in 2012 raised the minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 per hour, effective in 2014, to increase thereafter along with the cost of living. Albuquerque’s minimum wage today is $8.80 an hour, or $5.30 per hour for tipped employees.

Under the Healthy Workforce Ordinance, slated for the October ballot in Bernalillo County, workers could earn 40 to 56 hours of paid sick leave per year, depending on the size of the company that employs them.

The business groups’ lawsuit against Albuquerque and its City Council claim that the 2012 minimum wage ballot initiative and the Healthy Workforce Ordinance initiative violate the state constitution by logrolling, “a form of voter fraud.”

“Logrolling is the presentation of double or multiple presentations to the voters with no chance to vote on the separate questions so that unpopular, unworkable or extreme new laws will be voted on, with a potentially popular idea,” the complaint states. “Logrolling is criticized because it is a form of voter fraud.”

Specifically, the business groups say, the New Mexico Constitution, Article IV, Section 16, states: “The subject of every bill shall be clearly expressed in its title, and no bill embracing more than one subject shall be passed except general appropriation bills and bills for the codification or revision of the laws; but if any subject is embraced in any act which is not expressed in its title, only so much of the act as is not so expressed shall be void.”

The business groups claim the minimum wage increase included multiple steps: raising both the hourly wage and tipped employee percentage incrementally, and increasing the base wage with the cost of living, a violation of the single-subject rule.

They say the Healthy Workforce Ordinance does so too, among other things, because it “requires that an employer shall not report an employee or an employee’s family member to any law enforcement agency because the employee has exercised rights protected in this ordinance.” This, the groups say, amends a criminal statute and exceeds the powers granted to a Home Rule Municipality.

They seek an injunction rolling back the 2012 minimum wage increase and preventing the Healthy Workforce ordinance from being placed on the ballot.

They are represented by Patrick J. Rogers of Albuquerque.

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