Lobbying group trying to change city's minimum wage laws

Posted at: 07/31/2013 6:34 PM
By: Maria Guerrero, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A lobbying group located three and a half hours away is trying to change Albuquerque’s minimum wage ordinance, specifically when it comes to tipped workers like waiters and bartenders.

The group wants Albuquerque residents to vote on changes that would essentially triple wages for tipped workers, but it’s not necessarily designed to be pro-worker.

"Basically what this does is allows for the tipped employee to get a dollar more, guaranteed dollar more. They can also get more than that,” said Allison Smith of Kuper, Smith & Associates, LLC of Las Cruces.

The Albuquerque City Clerk said the group filed its accepted Notice of Intent on July 18 and now has 60 days to circulate the petitions.

"The proponents did file a Notice of Intent to circulate a petition, as required by the city charter, and they were able to provide the required five signatures of eligible Albuquerque city voters," said City Clerk Amy Bailey.

Asked why they are getting involved in Albuquerque’s business, Smith said:

“Well, this is an issue that we feel that Albuquerque has the highest situation for tipped employees and so that is why we are trying to clean up that... that ordinance."

Smith said she’s got clients in Albuquerque, though wouldn’t say who.

As of January 1, 2013, tipped workers in the city of Albuquerque started getting paid at least $3.83 an hour, plus tips.

But Smith and her group wants tipped employees to get paid $9.50 an hour between tips and a wage.

The proposal also wants to remove the percentages the employer has to pay in cash wages.

Meaning, as long as the employee gets $9.50 an hour, the employer could reduce their wage from $3.83 an hour to $2.13 an hour, the federal wage for tipped workers.

"This just allows that flexibility to that employer while still maintaining the employee gets a higher wage but gives that flexibility to the employer to be able to do it through tips and cash wages, instead of having that higher cash wage," said Smith.

The group is now trying to gather 12,091 validated signatures of registered Albuquerque voters. The deadline is September 16th.

If the group gets all the signatures needed, the proposal then goes to the city council for a vote and possibly even a special election at a later date.

Even if the group gathers the signatures required, the proposal will not go on October’s ballot.

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