Paid leave proponents claim that paid leave is about race and equity. They are right. A paid leave proposal without any assistance to the small business community will only create more inequity among women, people of color and immigrants.
The Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce believes our economy should be just, equitable and inclusive. Consequently, it opposes any paid leave ordinance that disproportionately impacts businesses owned by people of color, women and immigrants.
For more than 45 years, the Hispano Chamber has advocated for social justice in its mission to serve small businesses and support the communities we serve. We were founded on the principle that social inequities are the result of a disparity of wealth and resources. Enacting an ordinance that will disproportionately harm the women, people of color and immigrants who own small businesses in our community will only further widen those inequities when they force these businesses to shutter and eliminate jobs.
People of color, women and immigrants own hundreds of small Albuquerque businesses that serve and employ countless people from these same communities. Paid leave proponents have not offered any alternative that would not unduly burden these businesses. Instead, proponents persist in pushing a proposal that disproportionately burdens people of color, women and immigrants. Shockingly, they do so in the midst of the economic crises caused by the global pandemic that effects small woman-, minority- and immigrant-owned businesses at a greater percentage than non-minority owned businesses.
Paid leave advocates continue to perpetuate a polarizing debate with vitriolic rhetoric that unfairly and inaccurately villainizes small businesses. Rather than pitting workers and employers against one another, our community should come together and find solutions that help small business and their employees. We should consider the use of federal, state and local government assistance, including but not limited to the COVID-19 assistance, to support small businesses and their employees. Small businesses should not have to bear the burden.
Introducing legislation that would require struggling businesses searching for a lifeline to provide paid leave to their employees ignores the struggles of our small businesses. Forced to choose whether to pay their employees for leave or continue to operate, many will have no alternative but simply to shut down permanently, leading to even greater unemployment and poverty among women, people of color and immigrants.
Rather than putting energy and effort into ramming a paid leave ordinance through the City Council during an unprecedented pandemic and economic crisis, proponents should work with the small businesses to help these struggling businesses pay for leave. Continued divisive debate only harms our community, causing further despair among women, people of color and immigrants in our city that’s striving for equity and inclusion.