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Voters reject ABQ sick leave ordinance

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque voters narrowly rejected a proposal Tuesday that would have required employers to provide paid sick leave to workers, according to unofficial election returns.

Balloting in favor and against the ordinance was almost evenly split — 50 percent each — but opponents cast about 700 more ballots, out of roughly 91,000 altogether.

Opponents said the results demonstrated the value of their aggressive campaign. Polling showed growing opposition in the final weeks before Election Day.

“This was a local grass-roots campaign with the business community in this city,” said Gerges Scott, a spokesman for the Albuquerque Coalition for a Healthy Economy, which opposed the ordinance. “I’m very proud of all the people who worked hard to educate the voters about this harmful ordinance.”

Supporters of the proposal — who gathered at Hotel Andaluz in Downtown Albuquerque — said they were proud of their door-to-door canvassing aimed at making Albuquerque the first city in New Mexico to require paid sick leave.

“We feel really good about every conversation we had,” said Andrea Serrano of Organizers in the Land of Enchantment, an advocacy organization. “This campaign proved people are willing to talk to each other.”

The proposed Healthy Workforce Ordinance would require employers in Albuquerque, regardless of size, to provide paid sick time off for their employees. It would apply to full-time, part-time and temporary workers at any business or nonprofit with a physical presence in Albuquerque.

Tuesday’s election caps a 17-month debate that began when supporters launched a petition drive on Mother’s Day last year. Within 60 days, the “Healthy Workforce” campaign succeeded in gathering the roughly 14,000 signatures required to add the proposal to the ballot, bypassing the usual legislative process of the City Council.

Business, real estate and restaurant groups, in turn, launched a vigorous campaign against the proposal.

Supporters and opponents alike poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign, and hard-hitting mailers filled voters’ mailboxes.

Critics blasted the ordinance as an onerous mandate that would kill jobs and damage the local economy. They described the proposal as deceptive — sometimes labeling it the “trick leave” ordinance.

Among those in opposition were the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the New Mexico Restaurant Association and the Realtors Association of New Mexico.

Supporters, in turn, said Albuquerque workers deserved basic protections aimed at ensuring that, say, a single mom doesn’t have to choose between getting her paycheck and caring for a sick child.

Under the ordinance, employees would be able to use sick leave for themselves or to care for a relative, or for absences related to domestic violence, rape or stalking.

Supporters included Organizers in the Land of Enchantment, or OLÉ; the SouthWest Organizing Project; El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, an immigrant rights group; and the Center for Civic Policy, an Albuquerque-based advocacy group.

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