CAFé’s Ordinance will go to the Voters in November
On Friday July 25th, the City Clerk, Esther Martinez, validated the 2,257 signatures necessary to certify CAFé’s ordinance to improve wages to $10.10 by 2017 in Las Cruces. According to the Las Cruces City Charter Article VIII. Section 8.04 (b) it is CAFé’s understanding that the city council will take action to approve or disapprove the petition’s sufficiency at its next meeting, Monday, August 4th. If approved, the next step is to vote for or against CAFé’s ordinance. If the city council votes “yes” then the ordinance is adopted by the City and becomes law. If the city council votes “no” against making the ordinance law, then it goes to Las Cruces voters to decide.
“Anticipating that our ordinance to improve wages will be voted down, the best possible scenario for taxpayers is a concurrent and combined election with the City and the County during the November 4th general election,” explained Sarah Nolan, Executive Director of CAFé. “To do anything else would risk disenfranchising voters who clearly want to participate in the democratic process.” Nolan added, “I trust that City and County officials will reciprocate our good faith efforts and streamline the process in the best interests of voters.”
Angelica Rubio, campaign manager asserted, “It is time for Las Cruces to hold their city government accountable allowing residents to exercise their right to vote in the most efficient manner possible, and since this is the first time a ballot initiative has been utilized by the citizens of our community to participate in the future of our community, I urge our city officials to be on the right side of history.”
On the fifth anniversary of the last federal minimum wage increase in 2009, the Center for Economic Policy and Research developed a Minimum Wage Workers Pay Cut Clock that shows that minimum wage workers have lost over $6 billion dollars as long as wages remain frozen buried under the rising cost of inflation. In short, the purchasing power of today’s minimum wage debilitates consumers, weighing them down like an anchor.
In a memorandum dated June 1, 2014 from the CAFé faith community to city officials, we asked the city to consider a significant finding relevant to our community. First, “the data tells us that the cost of living in Las Cruces is only -1.9% lower of that of Albuquerque, yet the typical salary is +15.4% higher in Albuquerque than in Las Cruces (Salary.com). According to HUD, 97.8% of the county population spends more than 45% of their income on Housing and Transportation. Two-thirds of economic growth comes from consumer spending and when nearly half of a person’s income goes to only two of the many necessities a person or family needs it is a recipe for an unstable and defunct local economy.” The City of Las Cruces has not seen a minimum wage increase since 2009 when the phased-in statewide minimum wage topped out at $7.50 an hour. According to the United States Census Bureau, raising the minimum wage in Las Cruces will inject at least $10 million into the local economy. Furthermore, 18,000 low wage earners, 59% women and 64% workers who are Hispanic, will benefit from improving wages to $10.10.
Barbra Hayes, age 68, makes $8.57 at an assisted living center in Las Cruces where she has worked for 4.5 years. She is a born caregiver who loves her job motivating seniors to get the most life has to offer although, at times, it is difficult for her to enjoy life earning minimum wage. She believes in improving wages for all in our community, especially caregivers like herself who immerse themselves in this important and valuable work.
Leslie Belt, age 59, is a minimum wage worker who recently moved to Las Cruces. Prior to moving to Las Cruces Leslie was self-employed doing advertisement work. Unable to find similar work in Las Cruces, Leslie had no choice but to accept a minimum wage job at a call center earning six times less than her previous salary. Her clergy offered hope and support, the two ingredients she needed to keep going and not fall into despair.
Cassie Calway, a single mother of two teenage daughters, is working her way through school. She will begin her Master’s program at New Mexico State University in the fall. She is a tipped wage earner who makes $2.34/hour, slightly above the current tipped wage of $2.13, and depends on her tips to survive, which are inconsistent and unreliable. Making matters worse, a car accident with an uninsured motorist left her without transportation.
“I believe that there is a seat at the table for workers, we just have to take it. Our combined voices will guarantee that we are heard,” declared Cassie. “We need to come out of the shadows and shed light on our wants and needs. I am not looking for a hand-out. A fair wage for a hard day’s work offers a way out of living paycheck to paycheck and allows one to live with dignity.” she added.