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ABQ Free Press Forum: Candidates Answer Healthy Workforce Ordinance

ABQ Free Press Forum: Candidates Answer Healthy Workforce Ordinance

Five candidates answered the question. Of those, only Michelle Garcia Holmes opposes the proposed law.

Most of the mayoral candidates support the idea that all Albuquerque businesses should be required to offer their workers paid sick leave.

In our second rolling forum question, ABQ Free Press asked the candidates if they supported or opposed the proposed Healthy Workforce Ordnance, which will be on the Oct. 3 ballot for city votes to approve or reject.

Five candidates answered the question. Of those, only Michelle Garcia Holmes opposed the proposed law. Susan Wheeler-Deichsel said she supports the proposal in spirit but thinks it needs to be rewritten.

We thank the candidates for participating in this rolling forum by email. Here are their answers:

Susan Wheeler-Deichsel

“I support it in spirit. For many years I worked at menial, minimum wage jobs that did not award any benefits at all including sick-leave. I went to work sick, of course. I can relate to this dilemma very well.”

“Eventually, I had a small business in which I had a couple of employees. I chose and it was not easy  to earn less profit in order to offer my employees paid time off. It was very difficult to make any profit at all with all of the many regulatory fees, licensing, taxes and business insurance, so I have also walked in the footsteps of employers-especially those with small businesses. It is not easy.

“But with regard to to specific ballot item, if it were a good one, I would support it. I have been advised that it is not, so I say let’s go back and draft a better referendum.”

Michelle Garcia Holmes

“I am the only mayoral candidate that attended the district court hearing for this new ordinance. Albuquerque is number one in joblessness. I do not support this ordinance because it hurts our existing businesses and discourages new businesses from relocating to Albuquerque.”

“We must be more business-friendly in our city because when businesses are successful, it means more jobs for families. I am very discouraged by this ordinance. It ties the hands of the mayor, city council and it will cost businesses more money to operate. This policy creates liability issues for every business owner in our city.

“We must do just the opposite and help small businesses grow and add jobs by making it easier and more profitable to expand here in Albuquerque. We should always encourage business owners to offer their employees many benefits. However, it should be the business owner’s choice. I also believe this ordinance has constitutional issues and will be very difficult for the city to enforce. We have much bigger issues to address: crime, joblessness and addiction to name a few.”

Gus Pedrotty

“Yes. Having somewhat recently graduated from working hourly jobs that did not pay for sick leave, I understand the pressure of the awkward and unsafe position of having to show up while sick or risk being fired or not making enough money.”

“For commonplace illnesses that leave workers incapacitated, they should of course be entitled to compensation. Furthermore, this ordinance helps families and communities because of how illness spreads via proximity.

“Workers should be viewed as any business’ greatest resource, and that extends to their mental and physical health. We need workers of all jobs to be able to take time for themselves in a responsible manner that doesn’t put them or others at risk of sickness or injury.

“Giving people more safety in self, as sick leave does, brings up work environments and feelings of self-worth, creating more productive environments. I understand the contentious nature of this ordinance in its current form, and I recognize some of it to have merit, but the fundamental issue here is in line with workers’ rights and is an issue with a correct answer.

“The City did not properly bring stakeholders together when it was aware of this initiative, nor did it put forward alternatives or facilitate a discourse that included everyone. That is a governmental failure that will now ultimately be tried by voters, but that failure does not preclude me from voting ‘yes.’

“As mayor, should the ordinance pass and some aspects of it be deemed unconstitutional, then I will see it through litigation ensuring we protect our workforce with sick leave in a fully compliant and equitable manner.”

Tim Keller

“Sick leave is critical for our economy, our workforce, and the public health and safety of our city. As a dad of two young children, and husband of a full-time working mom, I am keenly aware of how important this issue is not just to us, but to our businesses and our kids’ caregivers.”

“No one wants the person cooking their meal to expose them to a contagious illness, and no one wants a caregiver to put their child at risk, for fear of losing their job. So, I will vote for this policy on Oct. 3.

“It’s also important to recognize that regulations like this one are not intended to harm responsible, good business owners, but to address bad actors who won’t do the right thing for their employees. As with any policy, there will be challenges, but I believe it is the mayor’s job to fine-tune sick leave policy to ensure that we minimize any unintended consequences to our local businesses.

“Going forward, it’s critical the new mayor step up and propose common sense solutions to challenges, the lack of leadership on this issue and others is why folks have no choice but to turn to the ballot box to get some progress. Folks on both sides of the aisle wouldn’t have to resort to the initiative process if we had an experienced mayor capable of bringing folks together on meaningful policies for the good of the city.”

Brian Colón

“Albuquerque’s residents would have been best served had the city council and mayor done their jobs and worked out a plan/approach that was developed through community stakeholder engagement including community advocates and our business community.”

“Unfortunately, that leadership was nonexistent. That said, I will vote for the proposed Albuquerque Health Workforce Ordinance. Sadly, according to the New Mexico Voices for Children, ‘…New Mexico has the lowest rate in the nation of workers with paid sick leave … nearly 50 percent of private-sector workers in New Mexico do not receive paid sick leave benefits.’

“The effectiveness of paid sick leave policies contributing to the quality of life of communities has been documented nationwide. The implementation of paid sick leave for the city of Albuquerque is in the hands of the voters. From the perspective of the mayor’s office, paid sick leave initiatives present the challenging question of enhancing the well-being of residents versus the need for sustainable growth and job creation.

“Unfortunately, any increase in the costs to a business may create negative consequences such as reducing the quality of service, a move to automation, and fewer options as consumers as businesses limit their offerings or even close their doors. Our mayor will have an important role in implementing this ordinance in the event voters pass it on Oct. 3. I will engage the stakeholders in that implementation process at all levels possible.”

Wayne Johnson

Did not respond.

Ricardo Chaves

Did not respond.

Dan Lewis

Did not respond.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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  • Rob
    August 16, 2017, 9:55 am

    Sure, it is hard for small businesses to make a profit. However, why do they think it should be the low paid employees who must make the sacrifices?

    REPLY
  • Matthew
    August 16, 2017, 10:18 am

    The problem with this is that there is a disconnect and a false narrative that anyone who owns a business is sitting on piles of cash. This is simply not true. If a business owner does not show up for work, then his duties don’t fall to someone else, they just don’t get done. If an employee does not show up, it usually falls on the business owner to pull double duty. This is especially true with small businesses here in Albuquerque. We are struggling enough with state and local regulations and tax burdens. We are honored to call Albuquerque home but sometimes can’t help but wonder if Albuquerque feels the same way about us. It’s not a matter of caring for our employees, it’s a matter of financial viability. If the city and state wants to remove some of the incredibly high tax burden; not only will we be able to offer our employees more, but we can pay more, hire more and begin to talk about growth.

    REPLY
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Steve “Mo” Fye is an Instructional Tech in the Culinary Arts program at Central New Mexico Community College and has been known to giggle after making a low-fat, gluten-free, low-cholesterol dish and eating it with a sauce he knows will blow his diet for days.

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