NM CAFé aiming to raise minimum wage, hosting rally

Las Cruces-based organization aiming to raise minimum wage

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - A Las Cruces-based organization says the city needs to catch up with other major cities across the state in terms of how much employees make.

Mark Stephens has owned and operated the Corner Deli in Las Cruces for 23 years. He starts out all employees at minimum wage, which is $7.50 an hour in New Mexico, 25 cents more an hour than the national minimum wage.

"You have to see if they're going to be able to do the job and at the same token, stick around and do the job. That's the thing about the food business, it's hard work, it's not easy," Stephens said. He added the last time minimum wage increased in New Mexico, he had to raise his prices.

"Not only does my help go up, but basically the people who are supplying my linen, supplying my product, supplying my produce, everything else, their wages are going to go up accordingly," Stephens said.

On Wednesday, New Mexico CAFé, Comunidades en Accion y de Fe or in English Communities in Action and Faith, is hosting a rally outside Las Cruces City Hall at 5:30 p.m. Those who attend will be calling for city leaders to call for a raise in minimum wage both at the federal level and locally. Information on the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions website says Albuquerque's minimum wage is $8.50 an hour, and Santa Fe's is $10.51 an hour.

Several months ago people gathered in front of a Las Cruces McDonald's to protest the same thing. CAFé sent an ordinance seeking action from Las Cruces City Council. A work session to discuss the topic is set for April 28.

"There are about 20,000 people right now who make less than $15,000 a year in Las Cruces right now. It's just a tell tale that our economy can not survive on such low wages," CAFé Executive Director Sarah Nolan said.

As for Stephens, he says the minimum wage debate is a difficult debate for small business owners.

"Who's to say, $7.50, $8.50, $9.50, $10 ... what's the magic number that's isn't going to cause the inflation to outpace what the wage is set at," Stephens asked.

CAFé is pushing for Las Cruces to increase minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017. Wednesday''s rally at city hall, 700 N. Main St., is expected to have over 100 people.

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