Bernalillo Co. to consider minimum wage hike

Posted at: 01/17/2013 6:26 PM
Updated at: 01/17/2013 7:05 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Minimum wage in Albuquerque went up a dollar this year and now Bernalillo County Commissioners are considering passing a similar wage increase.

Owner of The County Line, Steve Renfro, said in tight economic times raising the minimum wage could mean fewer employees serving up legendary BBQ dishes.

"I would ask my employees to do more if I were to pay them more," Renfro said.

Hiking up minimum wage would ultimately be more of a burden than anything else, Renfro said.

"I've always gladly given someone a raise, but for the state or the city to come back or the county I guess, to tell me that I need to raise the people who have thus far always made plenty of money, give them a raise because they say so I just don't think that that's fair," Renfro said.

The County Line is just one of nearly 1,400 businesses in the unincorporated parts of Bernalillo County that, if the wage is approved, would be impacted.

The current minimum wage rate is $7.50 an hour.

The proposed rate is $8.50 an hour.

"It's hard to say if that extra dollar will help or not," Caitlin Lang, a hostess and waitress, said.

Minimum wage is typically an after-thought for restaurant employees, Lang said.

"On a slow day like today, you don't get paid as much an hour so you get bumped down to minimum wage plus what few tips you did get, but you know, on a big night when we're super busy, we get paid way over minimum wage," Lang said.

An extra dollar requirement could drive down performance incentives and mean big changes ahead, Renfro said.

"It would be hard to use a raise as an incentive for a new employee," Renfro said. "We might have to have some lay offs and have certain people doing jobs that other people would, just to kinda keep the money, the budget, in line."

County Commissioners will vote Jan. 22 to propose the minimum wage change to the public, which will then have 30 days to comment. A final decision will be made February 26th.