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Petition seeks change to ABQ wage law

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — N.M. restaurant group backs 3% cap on pay raises in ABQ

Yet another petition drive is underway to change Albuquerque’s minimum-wage ordinance, this time with support from the New Mexico Restaurant Association.

The proposal would impose a 3 percent cap on how much the wage can increase each year, along with changing the requirements for tipped employees.

Supporters of the effort need to gather 12,091 signatures from city voters by Sept. 16. If they do so, the proposal would be presented to city councilors for the scheduling of an election on the issue.

A regular city election is already set for Oct. 8, but early voting starts Sept. 3, so it’s not clear that the wage petition would be done in time to make that ballot.

The original paperwork on the petition showing the names of those who launched it wasn’t immediately available Thursday. In any case, it has the backing of the New Mexico Restaurant Association. Carol Wight, the association’s chief executive officer, said her group didn’t start the effort but supports it.

“We have reviewed the proposed ordinance and believe that it is a rational approach to implementation of the 2013 minimum wage requirements,” she said in a written statement. “This ordinance looks like a win-win situation for both the business and employees by guaranteeing a high wage to hard-working, tipped individuals.”

The petition drive follows one from last year, when left-leaning activists succeeded in gathering enough signatures to get a wage proposal on the general-election ballot in November. Voters approved it, with 66 percent in favor.

The ordinance raised Albuquerque’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 for most employees, with automatic increases in the future to keep up with inflation. It raised the minimum wage for tipped employees from $2.13 an hour to $3.83 an hour.

Supporters of that ballot measure say the new one is deceptive. They say the way it’s written would lower the tipped minimum back to $2.13 an hour for tipped employees who make more than $9.50 an hour, when tips are included. “This new bill punishes employees who, by providing excellent service to their customers, earn more in tips,” the advocacy group Working America said in a written statement.

“Under this lobbyist-driven proposal, customers could inadvertently trigger a pay cut if they tip their waitress well for good service.”