While a handful of New Mexico municipalities – including the cities of Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Santa Fe, and Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties – have raised their minimum wages in recent years, the state-wide minimum wage has not been raised since 2009. Still at $7.50 an hour, its purchasing power has eroded considerably over that timeframe. In fact, when you factor in inflation, that $7.50 buys only $6.30 worth of goods today.[iii] If the wage had been adjusted for inflation, it would now be $8.95 an hour. While New Mexico’s minimum wage has remained stagnant and lost purchasing power, 28 states, including Colorado and Arizona, have increased their state minimum wages.[iv] As these states have found, raising the minimum wage benefits thousands of working families and local economies.[v]
In order for children to have nourishing environments where they can thrive, families need to be economically secure so they have the ability to invest in their children’s futures. If the state passes legislation to increase the minimum wage incrementally until it is $12.00 an hour by 2022 – and protects workers by prohibiting training wages and allowing municipalities to enact even higher wages – nearly a quarter of a million workers will see their wages rise as $204.8 million a year is added to their paychecks. This achievable policy reform will vastly improve the state’s overall well-being and give families, children, older adults, people of color, and women more opportunities to thrive. Local economies will see benefits as well.
- May 22, 2018
- Sarah Thomason, Lea Austin, Annette Bernhardt, Laura Dresser, Ken Jacobs, and Marcy Whitebook.
In November 2012, fast-food workers in New York went on strike and the Fight for $15 was born.
Over the last five years, the movement has lifted wages for more than 17 million workers across the
nation by fighting for and winning numerous minimum wage policies (National Employment Law
Project 2016). Substantial minimum wage increases are underway in California, New York, Oregon,
and more than 30 cities and counties around the country. In states and cities covered by them, these
new minimum wages will increase earnings for 25 to 40 percent of workers (Reich, Allegretto, and
Montialoux 2017; Reich et al. 2016). After four decades of wage stagnation and rising inequality, the
movement has delivered real, much needed, and meaningful progress in a remarkably short period of
Recognizing that the federal minimum wage falls short of what families need to make ends meet, other states and cities across the country have raised their minimum wages above the federal level of $7.25 an hour. No Texas cities have done this because Texas state law currently stops cities and counties from making most local decisions about the minimum wage. Local governments are only able to raise minimum wages for their own government employees and contract workers. What cities can do, however, is to insure that other benefits like paid sick time are available to all workers in that city which is what the City of Austin has done.
But how did we get here on the dollar minimum wage?
The retail sector is an integral part of the Los Angeles landscape with almost half a million workers in the county, and 147,157 workers in the city. Retail makes up one-tenth of the private sector workforce in the county and is its second largest employer. Yet more than half of the county’s workforce earn low wages. In the past few years, local and statewide policies have focused on transforming low-wage work, including a raise in the minimum wage, increased worker protections, and required paid time off. Despite the statewide strengthening of workers’ rights protections, the unreliable hours and unpredictable schedules endemic in the retail industry mean these benefits become inaccessible to many workers. In part, the retail industry relies on scheduling practices that are not good for workers, such as forcing them to wait for their weekly schedules with only a few days notice. These practices not only undercut workers’ hours and their expectations thereof, but also their incomes, and can make it nearly impossible for workers to realize full and healthy lives.
Hour Crisis: Unstable Schedules in the Los Angeles Retail Sector explores worker hours and scheduling practices for “frontline floor” staff that include salespersons, cashiers, stockers, and food workers in large and chain stores. We used a participatory and research justice approach and worked with students, workers, and community partners to collect and analyze the data. Using mixed-sampling methodology, we collected a total of 818 surveys. In addition, we analyzed government data and conducted an extensive review of existing policy and academic literature on the topic.