ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Local businesses are fighting tooth and nail against two proposed ordinances by Albuquerque city councilors. The bill would give employees new benefits at the cost of their employers who are already struggling financially amid the pandemic. People from various industries like hospitality, plumbing, and restaurants came out to the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday to fight the ordinances.
Dan Garcia is one of many local business owners who are against proposed legislation he said will devastate the business community. “If this passes, Garcia’s will probably close a couple of locations,” Garcia of Garcia’s Kitchen said. “There will be a lot of businesses that close. For them to try to pass this right now? It’s like come and make payroll a couple times and see what it is like to dig in your pocket and pay people more and more.”
The first bill would require businesses within city limits to give full-time employees 80 hours of sick pay through the end of the year. Garcia’s Kitchen currently employs more than 200 people. “We figure this is going to cost us anywhere between $450,000 and $500,000, and that is no joke,” Garcia said. “We can show it on paper.”
With sales already down at least 60% due to the pandemic, Garcia said it is an expense they cannot take on. “I don’t know where it is going to come from. It is going to come from where we put a closed sign on our door,” Garcia said.
Businesses said this would result in them operating with as few employees as possible and raising the prices. George Gundrey of Tomasita’s said they would have to rethink their business model.
“I would need to go to a counter-service model and not have servers,” Gundrey said. “I would probably have to make a lot more food not made from scratch. Right now, everything is made from scratch in the kitchen by employees. Honestly, I would be working to try to figure out a way to get out of my lease and close.”
Gundrey adds that these bills would discourage businesses from setting up shop here. His restaurant’s original location is in Santa Fe. “If I had known that elected officials in Albuquerque feel this way about business, I never would have come to Albuquerque,” Gundrey said.
The second bill would give extra pay to essential workers who can’t work from home at businesses with 50 or more employees. For employees that make up to $15 an hour, they would get an extra $30 to $75 depending on hours worked.
General contracting company North Bar Industries said that it is an expense they don’t have the money for. “It is so frustrating,” General Manager Angel Huddleston said. “We are already trying to scramble and figure out how we are going to make ends meet, and then there are added pieces to the puzzle.”
For Garcia’s, this proposed legislation means rethinking their future. “We are down almost to where it is better to close the doors,” Garcia said.
Albuquerque voters voted down a sick leave ordinance back in 2017. Garcia said he is open to considering this legislation down the line, but he said now is not the time.
KRQE News 13 reached out to City Councilors Isaac Benton and Lan Sena who introduced the bills. They said they are holding a news conference to address this Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Civic Plaza. These bills are expected to be heard by the city council at their meeting Monday.
Meanwhile, the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors has also come out against the proposed ordinances. In a statement on their website, they said they are worried the policies will force the closures of small and medium-sized businesses and lead to “trickle-down effects to an already tenuous financial situation.”