Essential employee salary and benefit proposals spark debate in Albuquerque City Council

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – Two city councilors want to ensure essential workers receive extra pay and benefits to work on the front lines during the pandemic. However, other city councilors say it’s too early to know whether businesses can manage the extra expense. Councilors Isaac Benton and Lan Sena are proposing that essential businesses like hospitals, grocery stores and restaurants offer their employees paid sick leave and more pay.

The resolution on paid sick leave is aimed at employers with fewer than 500 employees in jobs with high contact with the public. It would provide emergency paid sick leave benefits to workers who may not be able to work due to COVID-19.

“See the people who work there and know how much they make,” Benton said. “Which is very little and knowing how many advantages they have which is very little. I thought it was really time for us to move forward on the paid sick leave discussion.

Meanwhile, the emergency premium payment order is intended to help essential employees who earn $15 or less an hour, giving them at least an additional $30 per shift. Councilors Brook Bassan and Don Harris spoke out on Sunday, saying there needs to be an economic impact study of these two resolutions first, and more community input, to see if companies can afford them.

“It’s extremely important that we don’t rush,” Bassan said. “The public has the right to make their voice heard. I think we need a serious evaluation of the statistics on how this could play out positively or negatively.

Councilor Benton told KRQE News 13 that many studies have already been done on the concepts of the legislation. He said the demand for more education could be a delaying tactic.

Both resolutions were introduced last week. The board is expected to discuss this with a potential vote on them on June 29.

Michelle J. Kelley