ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – City and state officials said they were throwing the book at a restaurant for underpaying their employees. But KRQE News 13 learned for all the tough talk, the state is allowing that same restaurant to run a concession stand at the State Fair.
Employees who KRQE News 13 spoke with at the Hacienda Del Rio vendor stand said they’re shocked to hear about the wage scandal and surprised that they still have a stand at the State Fair because of it.
Fried foods and cold drinks, sampling the concession stands at the State Fair is definitely a tradition.
“Oh yes, we’re going to get a Navajo taco,” said fair-goer Cameron Joe.
There’s one vendor at the fair that is in a pickle, Hacienda Del Rio.
“The folks that are making these minimum wages, they are the ones living paycheck to paycheck,” said NM Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley. “When you steal from them you are taking away from their ability to feed their children, pay their rent, fix their car, all the things we take for granted.”
On Thursday, state and city officials said they’re going after the restaurant for ignoring minimum wage requirements, accusing the business of shortchanging 33 employees.
“That’s terrible, you shouldn’t underpay your workers,” said fair-goer Avery Gibbs.
The New Mexico Workforce Solutions Department said it has zero tolerance for that type of treatment and will take them to court. However, the restaurant’s name is splattered across the state-run fair as a sponsor and vendor.
McCamley said he wasn’t aware of the restaurant’s affiliations with the fair until KRQE News 13 brought it to their attention. But it begs the bigger question: If the state was investigating the restaurant for two years, how did that contract get through?
“Offering them a contract here but still underpaying their employees,” said fair-goer Michael Joe. “That’s not the way it should work.”
The department said they’re only concentrating on the wage theft at the restaurant and didn’t comment on the contract with the State Fair.
The city and state filed a lawsuit against the restaurant on Thursday