If you read just the first two paragraphs of the proposed Healthy Workforce Ordinance – which would “allow employees to accrue and use sick leave,” and claims “49% of private sector workers and 77% of part-time workers lack paid sick time, which compels them to work when they should be recuperating from illness or injury and increases the risk of passing illness to others” – you’d probably vote for it.
We sure would.
But if you read the entire 1,900-word document, chock-full of legalese and crammed onto the back of the Oct. 3 municipal election ballot in type so small many voters will need a magnifying glass, you’ll find plenty of reasons not to.
(Be sure to look at the back of the ballot because that’s where you pencil in your “For”‘ or “Against” circle. And voters, especially those worried about working folks, should pencil in “Against.”) This is a bad ordinance crafted by special-interest groups to circumvent city government.
First off, the ordinance is a nonstarter. If passed, it will almost certainly be challenged in court because it is legally vulnerable. And that will cost taxpayers money.
More importantly, this ordinance goes so far to provide benefits for employees that it absolutely tramples on the rights of employers, big and small. And it will force many of them to cover the costs of this heavy-handed mandate by laying off employees, cutting hours of others, moving their business outside the city or simply closing their doors – thus hurting the very workers it’s supposed to help.
And it’s all at a time when Albuquerque can least afford another hit to job creation – a Journal Poll shows more than four out of five respondents say the local economy is fair or poor, and two-thirds say their personal financial situation is no better than a year ago.
Remember that this ordinance did not go through any legislative process; it made it to the ballot because several left-leaning organizations collected more than 14,000 valid signatures on a petition calling for the ordinance to be put to a vote.
And if turnout Oct. 3 is as low as it usually is in a municipal election, and people vote based on the first two paragraphs, a few thousand people will decide how almost 600,000 work and do business in Albuquerque. Hardly a referendum. If wading through the tiny type is too daunting a task, consider these highlights as to why this ordinance is unhealthy for Albuquerque:
⋄ 13-16-3 (E) – If an employer requires an employee to provide a doctor’s note for three days or more of sick leave, the employer must pay the costs of providing that documentation. Liberally interpreted, that could force the employer to pay for the employee’s medical appointment and/or copay.
⋄ 13-16-4 – If an employer disciplines or terminates an employee – for any reason – within 90 days of that employee taking paid sick leave, the employee can claim retaliation and the employer will have to explain the discipline/termination. And it could very well open up business owners to costly litigation including class-action lawsuits.
⋄ 13-16-7 – Employees and employers covered by collective bargaining, i.e., unionized businesses and their workers, can opt out of the ordinance’s provisions. That patently favors unions and indicates who’s pushing this unfair ordinance.
⋄ 13-16-11 – This provision ties the hands of the current and future City Councils from making substantive changes to the ordinance, unless those changes make it more draconian than it already is.
And the ordinance provides sick leave for an employee to care for just about anyone by liberally defining “family.” Even supporters are up front that this could mean almost anyone.
In addition, it treats all employees who work just seven days in a year – full time, part time, temporary and seasonal – the same and puts the same record-keeping requirements on small mom and pop shops as large corporations.
Business groups from the Albuquerque and Hispano chambers of commerce to builders and restaurant associations have come out against it.
The one thing the proposed ordinance has right is that more Albuquerque employees should have paid sick leave. And now, thanks in part to the proposed ordinance, members of the business community, city councilors (and council candidates) and others have said they support paid sick leave and hammering out a workable policy.
That process would make it fairer to everyone by fostering debate and requiring public hearings and votes, as well as vetting by attorneys to ensure it better stands up to legal scrutiny. That is, by far, the preferred route to setting public policy.
The Journal strongly urges voters to vote AGAINST this job-killing ordinance and demand their civic, business and city leaders deliver a better alternative for all involved.
Groups against the Healthy Workforce Ordinance
Albuquerque Economic Forum
Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce
American Subcontractors Association N.M.
Americans for Prosperity
Apartment Association of N.M.
Associated Builders & Contractors N.M.
Associated General Contractors
Commercial Association of REALTORS®
Greater Albuquerque Innkeepers Association
Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS®
Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce
Home Builders of Central N.M.
Mechanical Contractors Association of N.M.
National Association of Women Business Owners
National Federation of Independent Business
NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association
New Mexico Association of Commerce & Industry
New Mexico Business Coalition
New Mexico Chile Association
New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides
New Mexico Hospitality Association
New Mexico Independent Automobile Dealers Association
New Mexico Restaurant Association
New Mexico Retail Association
New Mexico Roofing Contractors Association
New Mexico Utility Contractors Association
Rio Grande Foundation
Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce
Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors Association of N.M.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.