Paid sick leave left off November ballot

Danielle Todesco
September 08, 2016 10:20 PM

Organizers got more than 24,000 signatures and the Albuquerque City Council passed the push for paid sick leave for Albuquerque workers unanimously in August.


But Thursday, in the last hurdle to get that question on the November ballot for voters it failed.  The Bernalillo County Commission had a long discussion about putting this question on the ballot: Should employers be required to give their workers earned sick time every year?

It was decided Thursday that voters won't see that question this November and most commissioners will say it was simply because it wouldn't fit on the ballot.

Adriann Barboa with Strong Families New Mexico worked with several other organizations to see if voters believe that all workers in Albuquerque should get paid sick time from their employers.  They thought it was looking good.  They had nearly double the signatures they needed and the City Council gave it the green light.  But the Bernalillo County Commission brought it to a screeching halt.

"Their interpretation of the City Charter is that it does require the full text for it to be compliant with the City Charter," Commissioner Wayne Johnson said about one of several issues with getting it on the ballot.

He said they believe voters need to see the full ordinance on the ballot to make an educated decision.  But all that language certainly won't fit on this year's ballot.  However, Barboa says their attorneys argued that a simple summary of the issue would work and would fit.  The County Clerk's Office said it would just have to be in a 7.5 font size.

"Well, we can go there and they had a mock up ballot but it's pretty small," Commissioner Johnson said.

Johnson says several people at the meeting were worried they wouldn't be able to read that.  He also fears that the issue itself will hurt small businesses.

"It's a dagger through the heart of small business and small business provides jobs.  In my estimation, do you want sick leave or do you want a job?" he said.

Commissioner Debbie O'malley was the only one who moved to put it on the ballot.  No other commissioners seconded it.  She thinks it was never about the logistics.  It was purely political.

"I saw the ballot.  There's room on that ballot for that question, there's no doubt and the clerk said there's room for a 7.5 font.  The last question we put on the ballot was a 7 point font and that was minimum wage question," Commissioner O'Malley said.  "Clearly, there were some folks who felt that...didn't want it on the ballot.  I don't think in any circumstances they would have wanted it on the ballot."

It's not over for the paid sick leave question.  It just has to wait until the next election.  That could mean voters won't see it until October 2017.  But Strong Families New Mexico is also looking at their legal options.


Danielle Todesco

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