Two councilors propose new sick leave ordinance
J.R. Oppenheim and Kasia Gregorczyk
December 14, 2017 10:10 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Don Harris say they will introduce a new sick leave ordinance months after Albuquerque voters narrowly rejected a similar measure during the general municipal election.
An announcement from Harris and Sanchez released Wednesday states the ordinance would force employers to give workers up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each year.
"I think this bill represents a fair and equitable balance between the needs of employees and the needs of businesses," Sanchez said. "Sick leave is critical to the health of our workforce, but it has got to be done in a way that doesn’t hurt the very businesses that provide the jobs in the first place. I think this bill is balanced and represents an excellent starting point for a much longer discussion."
Under the ordinance, employees would accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, capping it at 40 hours per year. Employees would then be able to carry over up to 40 hours of sick leave to the next calendar year.
The leave can be for medical needs of employees, spouses and families. Victims of family violence would also be granted sick leave time.
The ordinance would also allow employees to begin using paid sick leave after his or her 90th day on the job. It covers employees who work at least 20 hours per week.
However, companies that already provide paid sick leave that coincides or exceeds these standards will not be impacted. It will also not override any collective bargaining agreements effective before Jan. 1, 2019.
The ordinance will be introduced at the Dec. 18 City Council meeting. Click here to read the bill.
During the Oct. 3 general election, the failed by the slimmest of margins. According to the returns, 46,051 voters opted against the measure while 45,333 supported it.
Opponents of that bill claimed it would become negatively impacted businesses. Harris echoed a similar sentiment about the measure, but he said the paid sick leave question must still be addressed.
"An ordinance that would have been very harmful to Albuquerque businesses almost passed at the last election, and so it's clear that Albuquerque's citizens want action on sick leave," he said. "The City Council needs to be proactive to ensure that any sick leave ordinance protects employees but also provides employers with a predictable and realistic process to administer."
When the first bill narrowly lost in October, proponents of the initiative were already considering ways to move the issue forward in the future.
"We certainly had been continuing to talk about the importance of earned sick leave discussing with the City Council what that could look like, and we will continue those conversations with this new bill being introduced," said Elizabeth Wagoner with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.
Interestingly enough, Wagoner and other proponents of the ordinance hadn't heard council members would be coming up with their own version until KOB called.
"Where we are now is just figuring out exactly what that law looks like and making sure we have a good law that covers everyone," she said.
Opponents of the ordinance feel like even a new version of the bill still would hurt employers.
"They're fixing something that isn't broken," said John Garcia, who's a part of a coalition of businesses and organizations happy with the outcome of October's vote. "And even in that, it says those companies that already offer sick leave if it's not, you know, less than what is in this bill than they'll be fine. Well, that's the majority of all businesses [that] have a sick leave and a personal time off.
"This is unnecessary. It's a play around what the public said no to using a political process to go around what the voters already said no to and that's a disappointment."
Supporters maintain most people they interacted with during the campaign agreed with the idea of sick leave.
"So I think actually all along the conversation is about what the bill looks like, not whether there is one," Wagoner said.
Harris told KOB Thursday afternoon he wants this bill to be a compromise that all invested parties can feel they had a say in. He expects amendments to the proposal.
If it eventually passes, it would go into effect in January 2019.
J.R. Oppenheim and Kasia Gregorczyk
Updated: December 14, 2017 10:10 PM
Created: December 14, 2017 04:56 PM
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