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Sick leave comes at too high a cost

A recent opinion piece by an Albuquerque restaurant owner shows she is passionately in support of a sick-leave ordinance. Unfortunately, it appears she has not read and analyzed the entire ordinance, or she would have a better appreciation and understanding of the significant costs and risks to her business and to all Albuquerque businesses imposed by this ordinance, far beyond just the cost of providing sick leave.

As the director of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, I have not only read the ordinance, but I have had it analyzed by human resources professionals and employment lawyers to evaluate the impacts to our members. Every new mandate comes at a cost, and the cost of this ordinance is significant. In fact, the only exception to compliance is for companies with collective bargaining agreements, which may be the real reason for this ordinance – to encourage growth in union membership.

Using the numbers from the proponents, the sick-leave ordinance would cost Albuquerque businesses an estimated $38 million annually. Where does this money come from? There is no extra money in the economy, there are no “fat cats” making these millions of dollars in Albuquerque. This is money that is going to make payrolls right now, and when it’s mandated to pay sick leave from payroll, the jobs of 107,000 workers will be at risk.

(Restaurateur Kristina) Leeder needs to ask her friends why they want to hide the language of this bill on the ballot by just putting a summary and not the entire ordinance before the voters. We believe there is a good reason for this: Because when you read the complete ordinance you will see the many cumbersome and costly provisions that will make Albuquerque businesses less competitive and cost the businesses in the city badly needed jobs.

For supporters of this ordinance, there is much to hide. Most sick-leave ordinances across the country carve out small businesses to protect the most vulnerable new enterprises; this one does not. This ordinance starts sick-leave accrual on day one, at 1 hour for every 30 worked and includes all workers — full-time, part-time and temporary. A business can only keep its sick-leave or paid-time-off policy if it is as strict or stricter than the proposed language of the ordinance. For small businesses, the complex legal and reporting requirements make this ordinance especially difficult and costly to administer.

No other city in the entire country has a sick-leave policy as expensive and expansive as this ordinance. Albuquerque voters should reject this “trick” leave like Santa Fe voters rejected these same out-of-state groups over soda tax. Other cities, like Denver, rejected similar sick-leave proposals because they hurt small business and result in fewer jobs. As much as we love our neighbors in Rio Rancho, Bernalillo and Los Lunas, we don’t want to force businesses who have flexibility where they can be located a major incentive to leave Albuquerque for surrounding cities.

This ordinance will impact businesses large and small. If Albuquerque wants to grow like other cities around us, then we need to create a climate in which businesses and employers want to operate here. To do otherwise is irresponsible and will cause real harm to our city that is already struggling in so many ways. Let’s work to solve our problems, not make them worse by passing this ordinance.

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