Law­suit tar­gets pro­posed sick leave or­di­nance

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARTIN SALAZAR JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Com­merce and In­dus­try and two trade as­so­ci­a­tions filed a law­suit in state District Court on Mon­day seek­ing to have Al­bu­querque’s pro­posed sick leave or­di­nance in­val­i­dated.

The law­suit al­leges that the pro­posed Healthy Work­force Or­di­nance is “a form of voter fraud” known as logrolling be­cause it lumps 14 dif­fer­ent is­sues as one.

“It’s an un­con­sti­tu­tional or­di­nance,” said Al­bu­querque at­tor­ney Pat Rogers, the at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing ACI, the New Mex­ico Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion and NAIOP, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that rep­re­sents com­mer­cial real es­tate devel­op­ers. The law­suit also asks a judge to de­clare the 2012 amend­ments to the

Al­bu­querque Min­i­mum Wage Or­di­nance un­en­force­able, al­leg­ing logrolling in that mea­sure as well.

The pro­posed sick time or­di­nance would re­quire em­ploy­ers in Al­bu­querque, re­gard­less of size, to al­low their work­ers to earn paid sick time off. It would ap­ply to full-time, part­time and tem­po­rary work­ers at any busi­ness with a physical pres­ence in Al­bu­querque.

Bar­ring in­ter­ven­tion from a judge, the pro­posed or­di­nance is ex­pected to ap­pear on the Oct. 3 mu­nic­i­pal bal­lot.

Ac­tively fight­ing the or­di­nance is the Al­bu­querque Coali­tion for a Healthy Econ­omy, a group of 26 busi­ness and trade or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Greater Al­bu­querque Cham­ber of Com­merce, who ar­gue that the or­di­nance would hurt Al­bu­querque busi­nesses be­cause of in­creased costs and oner­ous record-keep­ing re­quire­ments.

The law­suit names the city of Al­bu­querque, the City Coun­cil and all nine city coun­cilors as de­fen­dants.

“This pro­posal was not a Berry ad­min­is­tra­tion, or city, ini­tia­tive,” the city’s le­gal de­part­ment said in a state­ment. “It was in­ter­est group ini­ti­ated as al­lowed by the City Char­ter. The city will take what­ever ac­tion the court or­ders in this case.”

Tim Davis, a staff at­tor­ney with the New Mex­ico Cen­ter on Law and Poverty, said his group will file a mo­tion to in­ter­vene in the case.

“We think it doesn’t have any merit,” he said of the law­suit. “The logrolling pro­hi­bi­tions don’t ap­ply to the city of Al­bu­querque, and even if they did, this or­di­nance isn’t logrolling; ev­ery part of the or­di­nance per­tains to sick paid leave for the work­ers of Al­bu­querque.”

As for the chal­lenge to the min­i­mum wage or­di­nance, Davis said that elec­tion took place four years ago. He said any chal­lenge had to have been filed within 30 days of those elec­tion re­sults be­ing fi­nal­ized.

Sup­port­ers of the sick leave or­di­nance in­clude OLÉ New Mex­ico, the South­West Or­ga­niz­ing Project, the New Mex­ico Cen­ter on Law and Poverty and El Cen­tro de Igual­dad y Dere­chos. They gath­ered enough sig­na­tures to get the pro­posal on the bal­lot. Sup­port­ers ar­gue that the or­di­nance would en­sure that work­ers don’t have to choose be­tween their pay­check and car­ing for them­selves or a loved one.

Rogers said that if the or­di­nance is en­acted, “it will be the most ex­pen­sive and ex­pan­sive in the na­tion.”

“It will be a job killer and a great in­cen­tive for peo­ple to leave Al­bu­querque and New Mex­ico,” he said.

The min­i­mum wage or­di­nance was ap­proved by city vot­ers in 2012, in­creas­ing Al­bu­querque’s min­i­mum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour and tieing fu­ture in­creases to the con­sumer price in­dex. It also set forth a min­i­mum wage for tipped em­ploy­ees.

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