Democratic State Senate Leaders Joined Republicans to Continue State-sponsored Poverty Level Pay to Public Employees.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth and Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart - Democratic Leaders.

Women comprise 62% of state employees making under $15/hour

When The Candle first broke the story that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham had provided her high level staff huge five-figure pay raises during the COVID-19 pandemic while eliminating a modest and long overdue 4% raise to public employees, Senate President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart wrote she was working to help lower paid workers.

And she did – to a point.

Senators passed a $600 one-time tax rebate to employees making less than $15/hour. And there were other measures that were helpful to working families.

But when it came to raising the minimum wage for state, school and university employees to a minimum of $15/hour, Senator Stewart and her Senate Majority Leader sided with Republicans in keeping the salaries of several thousand workers at poverty levels.

During the debate for the FY 2022 New Mexico state budget, Albuquerque Democratic Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez offered an amendment to raise the wages of the lowest paid state employees.

This group of employees make under $15/hour.

Those wages are what the President of the United States described as “Poverty Wages.”

The cost of the proposed amendment was under $25 million – and while that is a significant amount of money it represents a fraction of the huge surplus the state had available to it from improved oil and gas revenues and more than $1.7 billion dollars in federal stimulus funds.

It is also important to note that those making under $15/hour, are people who will spend their income locally – at small businesses in places like Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Farmington, Clovis, Taos, Deming … and scores of other New Mexico communities.

Sedillo Lopez argued passionately for a $15/hour minimum wage for state, school and university employees.

These employees are janitors, housekeepers, clerks, highway maintenance workers, healthcare techs, etc. … the list is quite extensive.

A significant number of state senators professing to be “progressive” voted against the amendment, including President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth and all of the Republican Senators.

Another group of so-called progressive Democratic Senators cowardly dodged the vote – they were “absent” for that particular vote without being officially excused by the Senate.

The Candle will soon be reporting on those Senators who voted against raising the poverty wages – as well as the Senators who hid someplace to avoid voting on the amendment.

In another upcoming article, we will report on how the Governor, using her authority to bargain with employees and her self-proclaimed autonomy over certain stimulus funds, can embrace and implement what Senator Sedillo Lopez tried to do through her amendment.

The Candle recently received data from the New Mexico State Personnel Office (SPO) which, when analyzed closely yields the following information about those being paid state-sponsored poverty wages of under $15/hour.

  • There are  1,543 employees in state executive agencies making under $15/hour (this does not include employees at UNM or UNMH – those numbers are being reviewed).
  • Women comprise 62% of those employees making under $15/hour
  • Men comprise 38% of those employees making under $15/hour
  • Minorities comprise 72% of those employees making under $15/hour
  • Minority Women comprise 45% of those employees making under $15/hour