A group of legislators, advocates and individuals celebrated the start of New Mexico’s Paid Sick Leave law, which officially starts Friday. The Paid Sick Leave bill passed after a bitter fight between Democrats in the state Senate in the final hours before the legislature ended. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill. State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said the sponsors of the bill agreed to let the bill go into effect on July 1, 2022 instead of July 1, 2021 as a compromise with New Mexico businesses who said they could not afford to provide paid sick leave, particularly after being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stewart said there was an attempt to weaken the law before the start of the 2022 legislature but no bill was ever introduced.
On Thursday most bills that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law earlier this year went into effect but the one that did not yet is the Healthy Workplaces Act. The Healthy Workplaces Act, or paid sick leave, provides all private sector employees up to 64 hours of paid time off each year, regardless of the size of the business where the employee works. Employees will accrue one hour off for every 30 hours worked. Related: Paid sick leave bill heads to Guv’s desk
But, the law doesn’t go into effect until July 1, 2022. Miles Tokunow, an OLÉ community organizer who worked on the original bill, said delaying the start date of the law until next year was a concession made to the business community to give employers time to prepare for it.
The state Senate passed the Healthy Workplaces bill 25 to 16 after a lengthy debate that stretched into the early hours of Friday during which Democrats sparred against each other on the chamber floor over the treatment of the bill’s sponsor, while Republicans railed against the bill and one even held a lengthy filibuster. HB 20 would mandate that all private sector employers provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Private sector employees could accrue up to 64 hours a year of paid sick leave. The bill would not go into effect until July 1, 2022. Advocates had pushed for mandated paid sick leave for years, including at the local level in Albuquerque.
Private employers in New Mexico may no longer get to decide whether paid sick leave is a benefit they want to offer their workers. A bill that would ensure employees in the state have access to paid time off when they’re sick cleared the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on a party-line 6-3 vote Sunday. “Access to paid sick leave protects workplaces, families, and communities statewide,” read a tweet sent from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s account minutes after the vote. “I appreciate so many key stakeholders being at the table for this important discussion and I look forward to signing this legislation when it gets to my desk.” Known as the Healthy Workplaces Act, House Bill 20 would require private employers in the state to provide workers at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, or 64 hours per year.
A bill to create paid family and medical leave for all employees in the state is slated to be filed in January. The bill would allow employees to take up to 12 weeks per year of paid leave for a serious medical issue, bringing home a new child or to care for a family member with a serious medical issue. The effort is not new. State Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Las Alamos, sponsored similar bills in 2019 and 2020 and will be the lead sponsor on the upcoming 2021 bill. HB 16 never went to committee in 2020.
Albuquerque resident Iman Andrade got worried when the pandemic began in mid-March. She delivered pizzas for a living earlier this year and the staff making and delivering the pizzas make minimum wage. They came in sick because they had to, she said. “My experience as a worker, as a driver, you don’t get paid enough to get to call into work sick. In the middle of the pandemic, it’s dangerous.
On Sunday morning, with snow in the Sandias and temperatures in the 30s, thousands of people converged on Civic Plaza in Albuquerque for the Women’s March. The crowd may have been smaller than in January 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, but it was no less defiant of the president’s policies. Speakers called out in support of the #MeToo movement and equality for LGBTQ communities. They rallied to fight racism and economic inequality and reaffirmed the rights of Indigenous women. Many spoke about the pervasive nationwide fear that DREAMers, who had been protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, will be deported.
In the race for Albuquerque mayor, Tim Keller is in the lead, while Dan Lewis is now in second, according to a new poll for Albuquerque Journal by Research and Polling, Inc.
The poll shows 29 percent of likely voters support Keller, currently the State Auditor, while Lewis, an Albuquerque city councilor, is in second with 18 percent. Former Democratic Party of New Mexico chairman Brian Colón is in third place with 14 percent while Bernalillo County Commission Wayne Johnson has the support of ten percent of those polled. No other candidate has more than five percent support. If no candidate receives the support of 50 percent of voters after votes are tallied Tuesday, the top two vote-getters will head to a runoff election in November. Eighteen percent described themselves as undecided, a sizable number for days ahead of the election.
Three advocacy organizations are teaming up to intervene in and halt a lawsuit filed by business groups that want to reverse Albuquerque’s minimum wage and keep a paid sick leave ordinance off the ballot in October. The Center on Law and Poverty, which is acting as counsel, filed a motion to intervene and a motion to dismiss the lawsuit Thursday in Albuquerque district court. The Center on Law and Poverty, is representing a group of city voters who are members of Organizing in the Land of Enchantment (OLE) and El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos. The New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, NAIOP and the New Mexico Restaurant Association filed the lawsuit against the city earlier this month. The lawsuit contends that both city initiatives amount to illegal “logrolling,” which it refers to as “the presentation of double or multiple propositions to the voters with no chance to vote on the separate questions.” Attorney Pat Rogers, who is representing the business groups in the lawsuit, cites the fact that the proposed sick leave ordinance has 14 sections to it as an example.
Supporters of a proposed Albuquerque sick leave initiative asked a district court judge Wednesday to reconsider his decision to require the full text of the proposal on election ballots next year. The city election is still a year away, but the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty filed the motion asking Bernalillo County District Judge Alan Malott to reconsider a previous decision that required the full text of the proposal appear on the ballot and instead allow the sick leave initiative to appear as a summary on the ballot next October during the municipal elections. Lawyers with the Center on Law and Poverty said the full text would likely not fit on a one-page ballot and could cause inaccurate ballot counts, rejected ballots or a complete absence of the initiative on next year’s ballot. They also disputed Malott’s interpretation of the city charter. “The best way to mitigate these risks is an order that the Charter permits a summary to appear on the 2017 municipal election ballot, and that the full text may be provided to voters in a separate document,” wrote the Center’s lawyers in the motion.