City Hall won't enforce minimum wage

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Protesters outside the Route 66 Malt Shop on Tuesday had one question:  Why are Albuquerque’s new minimum-wage rates not being enforced?

“What’s to stop anybody else in the city from not obeying the same law and paying whatever they want,” said Robert DiGiulio, one of dozens of protestors gathered outside a Nob Hill malt shop that is ignoring the city ordinance that took effect on Jan. 1.

The owner of the Route 66 Malt Shop says it would be too expensive to pay the new minimum wage, adding that employees agreed to work for the lower wage. 

"I have a quote from Martin Luther King, if you will, that it's our responsibility to disobey unjust laws," said owner Eric Szeman. 

Albuquerque’s city attorney says the administration won’t step in to enforce the new minimum wage law approved by voters last year.

“The city attorney’s office doesn’t represent private employees and private causes of action with private employers,” David Tourek said. “There are 40,000 businesses in the city of Albuquerque.”

Tourek says it’s up to the private employees who are affected to pursue legal action.

“If the council were to appropriate and authorize me to start representing private individuals and private causes of action against their private employers, and provide the necessary appropriation, then I would follow that,” Tourek added.

But City Councilor Ken Sanchez says the ordinance already does allow the city to enforce the minimum wage increase.

“I don’t agree with the city attorney,” Sanchez said. “My biggest concern, if that is the case and we cannot find some enforcement, is that we are going to see a domino effect with many of these restaurant owners that feel, ‘If they don’t pay it, then why should we?’”

City councilors Rey Gardu o and Isaac Benton shared the same concerns telling KRQE News 13 they also plan to question city administrators Wednesday night.

Sanchez says councilors will discuss enforcement of the new minimum wage Wednesday, but since it is not on the agenda, it could take another month or six weeks before the council can take action.



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