City Needs To Enforce Minimum Wage Ordinance

Former restaurant owners who are defendants in a class action lawsuit filed by former employees suing to enforce Albuquerque’s “minimum wage” ordinance are alleging the minimum wage law enacted in 2012 by voters “was presented to voters in an unlawful, misleading and deceptive manner and is therefore void and unenforceable as a matter of law”.

(See April 12, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, Business Section B, “ABQ minimum wage law faces new challenge; Former business owners in class-action suite ask judge to strike down law.)

The defendant business owners want a District Court Judge to strike down Albuquerque’s minimum wage ordinance.

The argument can be characterized as fear and loathing of voters and workers.

The City of Albuquerque and the City Attorney’s Office should intervene in the class action lawsuit to defend the ordinance and to enforce the ordinance.

In 2012, by a two-to-one ratio, voters in the City of Albuquerque decided to raise the City’s minimum wage from $7.50 per hour to $8.50 per hour.

The ordinance also requires a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to the minimum wage and Albuquerque’s current minimum wage is $8.75 per hour.

Employers who provide healthcare or childcare benefits equal to or in excess of an annualized cost of $2,500.00, the minimum hourly rate payable to those employees is $1.00 less than the then-current minimum wage.

In 2012, Republican Mayor Berry, the Republican Albuquerque City Councilors and the business community opposed and campaigned against the minimum wage voter initiative.

Opponents argued increasing the minimum wage would destroy small businesses, especially the restaurant and service industries in Albuquerque.

None of the “doom and gloom” predicted happened and for over five (5) years the minimum wage ordinance has been in effect.

After enactment of the City’s minimum wage ordinance, Mayor Berry did not object to his appointed City Attorney saying the City did not have the resources to enforce the law against all businesses who violated the minimum wage law.

The current attitude of City Hall is that workers need to go to court on their own at their own expense to enforce the ordinance and that is why the class action lawsuit was filed by waitresses and waiters.

The existing minimum wage ordinance is a city ordinance that needs to be enforced by the city and the city attorney’s office and not leave workers hanging out to dry and to fend for themselves and their own expense.

I doubt that there a very many people who survive on the minimum wage can afford to hire attorneys to help them with their claims.

Every single business in Albuquerque is required to register and have a license to do business and must agree to adhere to all enacted city ordinances and laws.

Businesses cannot pick and choose what laws and city ordinances they want to follow.

The City Attorney’s office and Planning Department have the authority to enforce existing ordinances.

All businesses licensed to do business can be ordered by the city to follow the minimum wage law.

The City can take court action to have business licenses revoked and secure court orders to shut down the businesses for violating the law.

The City Attorney’s Office needs to do the right thing and enforce the existing minimum wage ordinance enacted by voters.

Voters need to ask all candidates for Mayor what their position is on the city’s minimum wage ordinance and if they intend to instruct the City Attorney’s Office to enforce the ordinance.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.