I just finished reading the full Living Wage Ordinance (pdf) that is supposed to appear on the October 4th Albuquerque City election ballot. I say “supposed to appear,” because in flagrant disregard to the Albuquerque City Charter (Article III, Section 3b), voters will only find this misleading summary instead of the full ten-page text:
PROPOSING TO ENACT A LIVING WAGE ORDINANCE THAT ESTABLISHES A MINIMUM WAGE IN THE CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE OF $7.50 PER HOUR FOR REGULAR EMPLOYEES AND $4.50 PER HOUR FOR TIPPED EMPLOYEES. THE ORDINANCE WILL NOT COVER SMALL BUSINESSES WITH TEN OR FEWER EMPLOYEES, WORK-STUDY STUDENTS, INTERNS WORKING FOR ACADEMIC CREDIT, OR CERTAIN OTHER EMPLOYEES WHO ARE EXEMPT FROM THE NEW MEXICO MINIMUM WAGE LAW. EACH YEAR IN THE FUTURE THE MINIMUM WAGE RATES WILL BE INCREASED TO KEEP PACE WITH INFLATION. THE ORDINANCE PROVIDES FOR ENFORCEMENT, INCLUDING DOUBLE DAMAGES FOR UNPAID WAGES, AND FORBIDS RETALIATION AGAINST EMPLOYEES FOR EXERCISING THEIR RIGHTS.
So, what are the backers of this measure trying to hide. Well, for starters there is the automatic exclusion of the handicapped from earning the proposed higher minimum wage.
On page 4 Line 17-18 of the ordinance, it says, “‘Employee’ shall not include any person who is a handicapped individual….” Can you believe it? ACORN actually went out of their way to relegate all handicapped workers to second class citizen status. This flies in the face of the Fair Labor Standards Act which makes it very clear that just because someone is disabled does not mean they should earn less than the prevailing minimum wage:
Section 14(c) does not apply unless the disability actually impairs the worker’s earning or productive capacity for the work being performed. The fact that a worker may have a disability is not in and of itself sufficient to warrant the payment of a special minimum wage.
Of course, I guess this type of offensive legislative language should be expected from an organization that pushes for higher minimum wages yet has a history of fighting to keep from paying its own employees (subscription) the minimum wage when it was only $4.25 an hour. Oh, I know. According to an ACORN representative this is old news:
[Jen Kern of the ACORN Living Wage Resource Center in Boston] said the case “comes up constantly.”
“At the time of this suit, a lawyer on our payroll thought the peculiarities of California labor law could prevent dedicated field organizers from volunteering time outside of work hours,” she said.
“In the process of pursuing the suit, he made some arguments that we certainly don’t stand by … and that we put an end to as soon as we became aware.”
Hmm, how long did it take them to become aware of it? Apparently long enough to not only lose the original court case, but to also lose the appeal. That’s a pretty long time to be conveniently unaware. Based on recent history here in Albuquerque there must be a whole segment in the ACORN employee manual that provides direction on how to conduct operations in a state of blissful inattentiveness.