July 19, 2019

NM House delegation split on vote to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour

The U.S. House passed a measure that would increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, and New Mexico’s all-Democratic delegation was split on the vote.

While Ben Ray Luján, who represents northern New Mexico, and Deb Haaland, who represents the Albuquerque area, voted for the increase, southern New Mexico representative Xochitl Torres Small voted against the proposed increase, which would be the first federal minimum wage increase since 2009, when the federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 an hour.

Fast food workers in New York City first began the widespread effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2012. However, Republicans held a majority in the U.S. House from then until the 2018 elections and still hold a majority in the U.S. Senate. Nearly all elected Republicans oppose such a minimum wage increase.

And the legislation has virtually no chance of becoming law, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not bring the bill up for a vote in that chamber and it would likely be vetoed by President Donald Trump.

Torres Small was one of just six Democrats to oppose the bill, and explained her vote in a statement Thursday afternoon.

“It’s time for the federal minimum age to be raised, but in a way that considers the unique factors of each region’s economy. What works in places like New York City or Seattle doesn’t always work in more rural areas like the ones I represent,” Torres Small said.

Torres Small, a conservative Democrat representing the most conservative area of the state, included quotes from local businesses who opposed the proposal in her statement explaining her vote.

Three Republicans voted for the legislation.

During her campaign, Haaland promised to vote for an increase of the minimum wage and said after the vote Thursday that the legislation would help address years of a stagnant federal minimum wage.

“Many families live in a reality where they have to work several low wage jobs to put food on the table,” Haaland said. “Raising the minimum wage will lift families out of poverty and has ripple effects for everyone by putting more money into the economy for people to spur economic activity.”

“Working families haven’t seen a much-deserved wage increase in a decade,” Luján said. “That is unacceptable.”

In the most recent legislative session, New Mexico legislators voted to increase the minimum wage.

The minimum wage in New Mexico will increase from its current $7.50 per hour to $12 per hour by 2023, including an increase to $9 per hour at the start of 2020.

The cities of Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Albuquerque already have minimum wages higher than the state minimum wage.