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Public Health New Mexico

Employers Criticize Fair Workweek Act

Library of Congress via CC
Workers punch a clock at a roller bearing factory

Albuquerque’s City Council will consider an ordinance in August aimed at helping part-time workers, but small business owners and employers say it’s unrealistic. 

This week’s introduction of the Fair Workweek Act is just the beginning of a conversation about people who juggle multiple jobs in today’s economy, according to Councilor Isaac Benton, one of the measure’s co-sponsors.  "Part-time workers are increasingly part of the work force, not always through their own choice," he said. "In many cases, employers are intentionally keeping the hours down in order to minimize regulation."

Benton said he’s sure the measure will be changed through negotiation with his fellow councilors, but he’s hoping to maintain portions of it that require predictable scheduling and sick leave. 

Under the ordinance: 

• Workers would receive schedules three weeks in advance

• Workers would accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked

• Employers would pay for shifts canceled three weeks in advance or less

• Workers would have the right to request flexible working arrangements due to circumstances like serious health conditions or caregiving responsibilities

• Workers would have the right to ask about, disclose and discuss wages with other workers

• Employers would offer additional hours to existing employees before hiring new people

The goal, he said, is to maintain a reliable pool of employees in the city. "If the workforce is just being beaten down, then we’re not going to have that good of a workforce," he said. "And, in fact, we might lose some of our best people to other places where the economy is stronger and the ability to get a full-time job might be greater."

Opponents said the 23-page Fair Workweek Act is just not feasible for business owners in the state, and it’s not clear how city government could even go about micro-managing employer/employee relations. The Chamber of Commerce has said mandates in the measure will be bad for business. The Albuquerque Journal’s editorial board called the ordinance a manifesto that would please the Castro brothers.

Next week, Benton will meet with the Restaurant Association, he said, to hear members' concerns. He added that the act might be something that ends up on a ballot before voters if it doesn’t survive the Council process. The measure will be considered in August after the Council’s July break. 

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