Advocates joined together in a virtual rally Tuesday to back an upcoming bill aimed at establishing statewide paid sick leave.
New Mexico legislators, workers and community organizations gathered in a show of support for a paid sick leave bill that will require employers to give one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work.
More than a dozen states have already passed legislation to mandate paid sick leave, including both Arizona and California.
House District 35 Representative Angelica Rubio, who is sponsoring the bill, spoke about her hopes to pass the legislation in 2021.
“This pandemic has unveiled to us so many inequities, particularly when it comes to workers who are on the frontlines of this pandemic,” Rubio said. “I am very excited to be working on this paid sick leave piece of legislation, not with just the organizations that have been working on this tirelessly for years, but also with the number of members and leaders within CAFé and statewide who have been directly impacted by a lot of injustices that are taking shape, or are taking shape in many of our workspaces.”
49.7% of all workers in New Mexico do not have paid sick time—one of the highest in the nation.
State Senator-Elect Carrie Hamblen says she recognizes that the cost of sick leave could put a strain on small businesses but that the additional expense can be seen as an investment.
“Local business owners may be apprehensive as it presents an extra cost,” Hamblen said. “And it is, but it's small. And I stress that it should be seen as an investment in their business, a way to reduce employee turnover, keep your doors open because you have healthy employees, and your customers know that you are doing your best to keep everyone safe, healthy and supported.”
Abraham Sanchez, an organizer with NM CAFé, offered an English translation of one workforce testimonial, saying this bill will help those that have limited opportunities.
“Maria comes to us from Deming, and she's worked with many of the workers out in the chile and the onion fields,” Sanchez said. “She spoke a lot about how the people who often have the lowest wages have the least opportunities, and so this is the reason that it's so important for us to be able to really push these things forward for workers in New Mexico.”
Stephanie Welch, with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, has worked to help draft the bill. She emphasized that paid sick leave can help lower the rate of disease spread and reduce the cost of healthcare.
“No one should have to choose between a paycheck and their health, but half of us who work in New Mexico do face that choice,” Welch said. “And that burden falls most on those of us who can afford to go without pay the least, such as people hoping to grow, harvest and serve food to everyone else. As you've heard already today, most people without access to paid leave work for low wages and access to paid sick leave differs substantially according to race, ethnicity and gender.”