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Santa Fe Gets by With 'Living Wage' Law

By Russell Max Simon And Kiera Hay
Journal Northern Bureau
    SANTA FE— Santa Fe's "living wage" ordinance has not caused the massive job loss that was predicted by opponents of the law, according to a recent study by the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
    Nor has it created job growth.
    "The analysis shows that overall employment levels have been unaffected by the living wage ordinance," the study reads.
    The Santa Fe Living Wage Network's Carol Oppenheimer said the study should help combat earlier claims that the living wage law would spell economic disaster for the city.
    "You have to look at this whole issue in the context of the doom and gloom that we heard when the City Council first passed it, that this was going to spell the end of a thriving economy," she said.
    "This program was never passed as an economic stimulus package. ... It was passed in the context of a moral framework that said no one should have to work on the lower wages," she continued.
    Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce President Simon Brackley said he had not read the report and declined to comment.
    Enacted in June 2004, Santa Fe's "living wage" law raised the city's minimum wage from the federal level of $5.15 an hour to $8.50 an hour, a 65 percent increase. The law only applies to businesses with 25 or more employees. In January, the amount was raised to $9.50 an hour.
    While the law's supporters greeted the study as evidence that predictions of economic doom from the business community were wrong, the study does detail drops in employment in some of those industries thought to be most affected by the law.
    The study concludes that the hotel, restaurant, retail and health care sectors on average reduced their work forces. Restaurants and hotels affected by the law cut an average of 4.3 employees, while retailers trimmed an average of 3.5 employees. The health care industry was hit harder, losing 11.6 employees per business.
    But the study says the job losses were not the result of the living wage law, since the trends reflect similar declines in Albuquerque.

E-MAIL writer Russell Max Simon And Kiera Hay