Starting in October, one of New Mexico’s largest private employers will adopt a minimum wage of $15 per hour.
Last week, Presbyterian Healthcare Services informed staff that all employees making less than $15 per hour would have their pay elevated beginning on Oct. 3.
Presbyterian president and CEO Dale Maxwell said about 9% of the organization’s roughly 13,000 New Mexico employees currently make less than $15 per hour, including food-service employees, housekeepers and clerical workers. To avoid wage compression, Maxwell said employees making $15 per hour or more will also receive pay increases of around 3%.
Maxwell said the organization made the choice in order to better attract and retain employees in a tight labor market, as well as to celebrate its workforce during a difficult year and a half for the health care industry.
“We’re demonstrating the value we have in our workforce, and we’re honoring their service to our patients and our members,” Maxwell said. “It’s just the right time for us to do this.”
The change applies to employees and managers who were hired by or on Sept. 18 and are actively employed on Oct. 3, including temporary employees, according to a letter sent to employees.
Maxwell confirmed that Presbyterian will pay new hires at least $15 per hour. He said he’s hopeful that this will make the organization more attractive to current and future employees in a labor market he characterized as challenging.
“I think this is signaling that we value our employees, and that our employees are important to delivering on our purpose of improving the health of our community,” Maxwell said.
The national labor force participation rate – a measure of workers who are employed or actively seeking work – declined during the pandemic and has been slow to recover, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Augmented unemployment benefits, uncertain access to childcare and fear of contracting COVID-19 have each been cited as factors for the decline.
To become more competitive, national retailers like Walgreens, Target and Best Buy have all announced recent shifts to a $15 minimum wage, and some local employers are starting to follow suit.
Ultra Health, the state’s largest medical cannabis company, announced that the company will adopt a $15 minimum wage in January. Ultra Health president and CEO Duke Rodriguez said he expects the rate to become standard for the industry in the next year.
In May, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour. Shelter spokesman Murad Kirdar said the change raised wages for around 30% of the organization’s 100-person staff.
Kirdar said the animal shelter has struggled to attract employees under its prior wage structure. He said several new shelter employees have said the pay raise attracted them to their current positions.
“It definitely got the word out, and it definitely made us … a place that someone really wants to work and make some money, and also give back to their community,” Kirdar said.