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National Restaurant Association - Albuquerque, San Jose pass wage initiatives

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Albuquerque, San Jose pass wage initiatives

Voters in Albuquerque, N.M., and San Jose, Calif., approved minimum-wage hikes through ballot initiatives Nov. 6, ratcheting up wages for employers in those two cities to $8.50 and $10 an hour, respectively, next year.

Both measures also automatically index future wage hikes, tying annual wage increases to the rate of inflation.

Both the New Mexico Restaurant Association and California Restaurant Association had fought the measures in concert with broad employer coalitions, trying to get the word to voters about the harmful impact of mandatory across-the-board increases in labor costs for businesses with low profit margins.

San Jose's Measure D, developed and pushed in part by students at San Jose State University, raises the wage in the city to $10 from $8 by mid-March, 2013. A study by Beacon Economics predicted Measure D could cause the loss of between 900 and 3,100 jobs in the city, and cost San Jose employers between $88 million to $96 million.

In Albuquerque, the New Mexico Restaurant Association is a leader in the Committee to Keep Albuquerque Working coalition. The group strongly opposed the local minimum wage ordinance, arguing that the wage hike will take a heavy toll on businesses in the city, including placing locally owned and small companies at a disadvantage to businesses outside the city and the state. The measure will increase the minimum wage to $8.50 from $7.50 starting Jan. 1, 2013, and increase the cash wage for tipped employees to 60 percent of the minimum.

"The annual increase tied to the consumer price index is very harmful for the City of Albuquerque, small businesses and those on fixed incomes," NMRA CEO Carol Wight said in a Nov. 7 letter. "Our economy is struggling and this increase does nothing to alleviate the economic challenges our community faces."

Wight said the fight isn't over. She said the Keep Albuquerque Working coalition is asking for a recount after reports of voting irregularities, including reports that residents outside the city were allowed to vote on the wage hike.

The National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Advocacy Fund contributed to the effort to defeat the Albuquerque ballot initiative.

In other ballot initiatives, voters in Long Beach, Calif., approved a measure to increase the minimum wage for employees in hotels with more than 100 rooms to $13 an hour, and guarantee up to five paid sick days for these employees.

Voters in Richmond, Calif., and El Monte, Calif., decisively rejected proposed penny-per-ounce "business license fees" on sugar-sweetened beverages served by businesses in the two cities. California voters also rejected a plan to require labeling for foods containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

South Dakota voters turned down a ballot measure that would have raised the state's sales tax from 4 percent to 5 percent to fund spending on schools and Medicaid. The South Dakota Retailers Association co-chaired the "Defeat 15" effort to defeat the 25 percent tax hike, which would have cost $180 million a year. "This was a herculean effort; proponents probably outspent us 10 to 1," says SDRA Executive Director Shawn Lyons. "But our grassroots message was simple: This was bad public policy, and would only open the door to future special tax increases to fund special projects."


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