Albuquerque City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Don Harris have introduced a mandatory sick leave ordinance.
(See December 15, 2017 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, “Sick leave ordinance proposed; Two city councilors seek ‘fair’ policy after narrow defeat of ballot initiative in October.)
Sanchez and Harris are Albuquerque’s political Tweedledum and Tweedledee with the way they act together to promote their own bloated self-interests and agenda.
Now we have some idea why a deal was struck by Democrat Ken Sanchez and Republican Don Harris to create a “conservative coalition” to get Sanchez elected President and Harris elected Vice President of the Albuquerque City Council.
THE SANCHEZ/HARRIS PROPOSAL
The Sanchez/Harris proposed mandatory sick leave ordinance has some similarities but yet is very different to the Healthy Workforce Ordinance that failed in the October 3, 2017 municipal election.
The Sanchez/Harris proposed sick leave ordinance will not apply to businesses with fewer than 50 employees and it will not apply to temporary workers.
Unlike the ordinance voted down, the Sanchez/Harris ordinance leaves out the “rebuttable presumption” that any adverse action against an employee taken within 90 days of the employee being out sick is retaliation.
Other significant provisions of the Sanchez/Harris proposed ordinance that are similar to the failed Healthy Workforce Ordinance include:
• One hour of paid sick leave would be provided for each 40 hours worked by an employee, up to a maximum of 40 sick leave hours per calendar year.
• Employees would be able to carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick leave they have earned to the next calendar year.
• Workers would be allowed to use their sick leave for medical care for themselves, their spouses or family, or if the employee is a victim of family violence.
• Employees would be able to begin using earned sick leave after working 720 hours.
• Employees who work an average of at least 20 hours a week would be covered.
(NOTE: this will likely result in fewer hours being offered by a business to avoid having to pay sick leave.)
• Employers that already have an existing sick leave/paid time off program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the ordinance would be exempt.
FEW WORKERS WILL BENEFIT
According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 72 percent of all U.S. workers get paid sick leave with 68% of all workers in private industry getting paid sick leave and 91% of state and local government workers getting paid sick leave.
Elizabeth Wagoner, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said the proposed ordinance as written would be the weakest sick leave bill in the country.
According to Wagner “In cities and states around the country they’ve passed much stronger laws and experienced economic growth, not to mention healthier and safer communities. The big difference is virtually every other law allows employees to earn an hour of paid time off for every 30 hours they work”.
Placing a 50-employee threshold to the ordinance an excluding temporary worker will exempt the overwhelming majority of businesses in Albuquerque thereby defeating the intent and purpose of the ordinance.
According to the Healthy Workforce coalition, 90 to 95 percent of all employers in Albuquerque employ less than 50 employees.
The proposed ordinance also excludes many families in Albuquerque by using a narrow definition of family members that an employee can care for using their earned sick time.
What is also lacking in the Sanchez/Harris ordinance is a provision for sufficient funding for enforcement.
TRUE LOYALTIES REVEALED
What is very revealing is the political snub both Sanchez and Harris have given to Democrat City Councilor Pat Davis by not having him as a co-sponsor to the sick leave ordinance.
Davis was a strong proponent of the failed Healthy Workforce Ordinance to the point he even attended District Court hearings.
During the past two years, Democrat Pat Davis has gone out of his way and has taken great pride in working on legislation to cosponsor with Republican Don Harris.
Davis now knows how far his work and cooperation with Republican Don Harris has gotten him.
Davis should now know and how much he can actually trust Harris, especially after Don Harris did not support Pat Davis for City Council President nor Vice President.
For the last eight (8) years, Sanchez and Harris, and for that matter, the entire City Council, have rubber stamped all that the former Republican Mayor did, including the ART bus project and the final adoption of the ABC-Z comprehensive plan which will have long term impact on our neighborhoods and favors developers.
When over 20,000 petition signatures were being collected last year for the mandatory sick leave ordinance, known as the Healthy Workforce Ordinance, Sanchez and Harris were nowhere to be found in support of it.
Both Sanchez and Harris when they were running for reelection this year said they opposed the Healthy Workforce Ordinance ballot measure saying it was a job killer and that it would hurt small businesses if it had been approved by voters.
NO INPUT FROM KELLER
We have also learned how Mayor Keller is going to be treated by Sanchez and Harris over the next four years indicating what he is up against when three (3) Democrats and (3) Republicans form a conservative coalition at the exclusion of three (3) progressive Democrats.
During the Mayor’s race, Tim Keller made it clear he supported the mandatory sick leave ordinance and said he was going to vote for it.
Keller also said if he was elected Mayor, he would do what he could to enact a mandatory sick leave ordinance if the ballot measure failed.
A coalition of 27 businesses and business organizations was formed last year to oppose the Healthy Workforce Ordinance in court and the ballot initiative.
The Healthy Workforce Ordinance was defeated by less than 800 votes in the October 3, 2017 municipal election.
Now both Sanchez and Harris are coming to the rescue co-sponsoring a new sick leave ordinance on their own just two weeks after Mayor Keller is sworn into office.
Sanchez and Harris failed to notify the Mayor’s Office before their proposed ordinance was introduced and released to the press.
You would think professional courtesy would dictate that Sanchez and Harris would want the Mayor’s input on the ordinance, but obviously not when you want the front page Journal coverage.
Then again, both Sanchez and Harris initially talked about running for Mayor this last go around, did not, and no doubt see an opportunity seize upon a major issue to run on in four (4) years against Mayor Keller.
Notwithstanding all the problems with the proposed ordinance, perhaps a mandatory sick leave ordinance will emerge that all the city councilors can support and the Mayor can sign without putting it on the ballot this time.
A bigger obstacle is how the business community and the private sector will react to the ordinance and what extent the opposition will be.
It would make common sense to contact the coalition of 27 businesses and business organizations that was formed last year to oppose the Healthy Workforce ordinance and get their input and recommendations on what they could support.