Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Typo stands between Albuquerque workers and a minimum wage increase

September 13th, 2012 | Laura Clawson

Let the uncertain fate of a proposal to raise Albuquerque, New Mexico’s minimum wage be a lesson to you: Proofreading matters. Groups pushing to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50, with tipped workers receiving 45 percent of that, collected 25,000 signatures, more than 12,000 of which were certified by the city clerk. But they apparently didn’t proofread what they gathered signatures on.

The signatures were gathered for a proposal reading: “Starting in 2013, employers of tipped employees like waitresses and waiters be paid at least 45 percent of the minimum wage in cash wages from their employers.” Did you catch that? “Employers” and “employees” are reversed at the beginning of the sentence, suggesting that restaurant owners would be the ones getting paid.

With restaurant owners typically among the biggest opponents of raising the minimum wage (or offering paid sick leave, or anything else that benefits workers), if the measure passes as written, or if the typo is corrected and the measure passes, lawsuits against it taking effect are a guarantee. City law does in fact allow for typos to be fixed, but that wouldn’t necessarily prevent a lengthy legal battle.

The typo is not the only confusion regarding the measure:

The city charter says once the petitions for an initiative like the one OLE used are submitted, the city clerk has 10 days to certify the signatures. After that, city council has two weeks to act on it or the proposal goes on a ballot 90 days from when it was submitted.

No action was taken at Wednesday’s city council meeting so according to the charter, voters should get a say before November 9.

However under state law, city council needs to pass an election resolution to put the issue on the ballot, something it hasn’t done yet.

Whatever it takes, this is a fight worth having. Raising the minimum wage is popular, it’s the right thing to do for workers struggling to make ends meet, and it definitely doesn’t hurt job creation—in fact, evidence suggests it helps job creation. Nationally, the workers who benefit from a minimum wage increase are overwhelmingly at least 20 years old, with majorities being women and full-time workers.
And if it’s a fight worth having, it’s worth proofreading. Twice, if necessary.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on September 7, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

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