Albuquerque Journal: Two city councilors will introduce 'workweek act'

Originally published by Albuquerque Journal, Dan McKay
June 22, 2015

Photo by Krqe News 13

Two city councilors plan to introduce a proposal today that would require employers to set work schedules three weeks in advance, pay employees for unexpected changes and provide paid sick leave.

It’s called the “Fair Workweek Act,” and a sponsor of the legislation says it would make Albuquerque a national leader in the treatment of workers, especially single parents.

The proposal is “a response to the changing dynamics of the American workplace, including here in Albuquerque,” said Councilor Isaac Benton, a sponsor of the bill. “More and more people are on part-time, flex-time, trying to juggle two jobs sometimes.”

Benton and Klarissa Peña, both Democrats, are sponsoring the proposal. It’s scheduled for introduction at today’s meeting, then referral to the council’s finance committee.

New contract for DOJ negotiator:
"The City Council tonight is expected to consider a proposed contract for the attorney who negotiates with the U.S. Department of Justice on the city’s behalf.
The agreement would authorize $550,000 to pay attorney Scott Greenwood for work he has already done and another $200,000 for work he will do over the next year.
The city hired Greenwood last year after a Justice Department investigation found Albuquerque police had a pattern of violating people’s rights through the use of force."

City Councilor Trudy Jones, a Republican, expressed skepticism about the proposal.

“I haven’t seen the full ordinance yet,” she said, “but on the surface, it seems a little far-reaching and probably rather harmful to all businesses.”

Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said the bill could hurt employers, in part by reducing their flexibility.

“This bill looks like it is mandating many new requirements for business, which isn’t the way to create badly needed jobs in our city and state,” she said in a written statement Friday. “The bill could hurt many businesses but, in particular, it will hurt small businesses. Mandates take away options and flexibility for small business and that’s unfriendly to creating jobs.”

A spokeswoman for Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, said the administration is still evaluating the proposal.

Benton said the goal certainly isn’t to harm employers. The bill is simply aimed at providing predictability and helping workers, he said.

Benton once owned an architecture firm that employed up to nine people.

“I wouldn’t put anything in there that I don’t think I, as an employer, could have pulled off,” Benton said.

He added that he’s open to compromise and won’t rush to have the measure acted on right away.

The council’s finance committee doesn’t meet again until August.

The 23-page ordinance:

• Applies to full- and part-time, seasonal and temporary employees. The exceptions include people working in an “executive, administrative or professional capacity and forepersons, superintendents and supervisors.”

• Employers would have to give each employee his or her work schedule in writing at least 21 days in advance. Employees couldn’t be required to work different hours without consent.

• Employers would have to pay an employee for up to four hours of work if they, at the last minute, tell the worker not to show up or reduce the hours of the shift.

• Workers would have the right to request a flexible working arrangement once a quarter if they have a health problem, must care for a family member or participate in training.

 Employers would have to offer additional work to existing employees before hiring new ones.

• Employees would generally accrue at least an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

City Councilor Ken Sanchez, a Democrat, said he supports the proposal.

But he said he would also like to see a compromise that can win either support from the mayor or enough votes to override a veto.

It makes “for a better workforce” when employers provide good benefits, he said.

Democrats hold a 5-4 edge on the council. It takes six of nine votes to override a mayoral veto.