LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The Las Cruces City Council voted to raise the minimum wage Monday. But the battle to raise it even high rages on.
After four hours of debate and public comment councillors decided in a 4-3 vote to move forward with city Councilors Miguel Silva and Ceil Levatino's proposal.
"I ask that you please again, vote no because our character is not about buildings, our character is about the way we treat people in this community who work," said one resident during public comment. "And the advantages we give everyone's children, everyone's, not just the people who can afford. We don't want to survive in Cruces, we want to live. "
The proposal increases the minimum wage to $8.50 by 2016. After that it would be adjusted to cost of living, capped at three percent.
The representatives said that is what the business community can afford. Rep. Nathan Small voted against the measure.
"They chose to limit opportunity," Small said. "They capped the ability for the lowest wage workers in our community to see increases."
This battle may not be over yet.Community organization Cafe is currently working on a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 in three separate bumps. The group is working on a petition to get their proposal on November's ballot. They have around 1,400 signatures. They need 2257.
"$10.10 is the number that would raise millions of people, particularly thousands of people out of poverty," said café campaign manager Angelica Rubio.
If Café can gather those signatures by June 20th, the city clerk must first verify them, then council will decide whether to make their proposal law or leave it up to voters.
"$10.10, the local community cannot handle that," Silva said. "I question their motive if it's really to help the residents that are in need of minimum wage being raised or is it just to put in on the ballot to bring voters to the November vote."
A comparison of minimum wages shows El Paso's is at $7.25, Las Cruces's minimum wage was at $7.50, Santa Fe is at the highest in the state of New Mexico at $10.66, and Albuquerque is at $8.60.