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March 18, 2003
Santa Fe Looks at Working with Living Wage Law

Last month, the Citty Council of Santa Fe, N.M. approved legislation that pushes the minimum wage to $8.50 for employees at firms with 25 or more workers, the Associated Press reports. Proponents call it a much-needed living wage. Opponents say it is too heavy a burden on business. The AP calls it the most sweeping living wage law in the country.

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The AP notes that many municipalities have passed living wage ordinances that cover city workers or employees of firms that contract with the local governments, but Santa Fe is the only municipality with a law that covers all firms with 25 or more employees. The mandatory minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $10.50 by 2008.

"I'm going to have to spread the pain around," says the owner of the Pink Adobe restaurant, Joe Hoback, who tells the AP he may have to raise prices and cut back on employee benefits. "The majority of my staff is very much against this because they want to have a choice on how they are going to receive their compensation."

In other cities, efforts that tried to maintain a living wage like that of Santa Fe have fallen short. The Supreme Court in Louisiana overturned a New Orleans ordinance last year, according to the AP. In the same year, the residents of Santa Monica, Calif. voted against a living wage law.

Critics contend businesses will be forced to cut jobs, shut down or relocate, the AP reports.

"We're going to have to consider all the possibilities to maintain a competitive advantage," says Jim Weyhraunch, chief executive of Nambe Mills.



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