Albuquerque Business First: Restaurant association to wave white flag on paid sick leave proposal

Originally published by Albuquerque Business First, Stephanie Guzman
June 7, 2016

Photo by Bartek Szewczyk

There was an effort last year to pass an ordinance that would have required Albuquerque employers to improve scheduling for hourly workers and provide paid sick leave.

After heavy opposition from various industry organizations and the local chamber of commerce, the Fair Workweek ordinance failed. Something that came out of that effort, however, was a movement to require Albuquerque businesses to allow workers to earn paid sick leave.

A ballot initiative would require Albuquerque business owners to offer one hour of sick...

The Albuquerque Journal reports the new effort, a ballot initiative called the Healthy Workforce Act, is making its way to the November ballot. Supporters of the proposal have gathered 5,576 signatures thus far, and need 14,218 signatures from registered voters by July 11 to put it on the ballot.

The proposal would require business owners to offer one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Large employers would be required to offer seven sick days per year, while smaller businesses would allow workers to earn five sick days per year.

But unlike the Fair Workweek ordinance, it's possible few business organizations will fight this proposal.

One that's already waving the white flag is the New Mexico Restaurant Association.

Carol Wight, CEO of the NMRA, said the association opposes the proposal because many members say it would be bad for business.

Yet, Wight said it would be difficult for her organization to coordinate an opposition effort because larger businesses that already offer paid sick leave are not going to fight it and smaller businesses don't have the money to do so.

Wight said the NMRA spent $250,000 to fight the minimum wage increase in Albuquerque, which passed in 2012 with a 66 percent vote. To spend that kind of money fighting sick paid leave doesn't make sense, she said, because the proposal polls well.

"We almost can't win it," Wight said. "I won't spend members' money on it."

The fight for paid sick leave for hourly workers has gained momentum across the nation. Many larger companies already offer paid sick leave, and states and individual cities have passed laws that require it. Arizona also has a similar paid sick leave ballot initiative.