Protestors picket restaurant over wages

Posted at: 02/19/2013 5:11 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Protestors gathered outside of the Route 66 Malt Shop Tuesday to picket the restaurant for refusing to pay its employees Albuquerque’s minimum wage.  The protestors are also calling on a boycott until the owner complies with the city ordinance.

Albuquerque voters overwhelmingly decided to increase the city’s minimum wage during the general election in November.  The wage hike went into effect in January. 

During the protest, the shop’s owner came out to remove the picketers off the property. 

“I will go out of business and twelve people will lose their jobs,” owner Eric Szeman told the protestors about having to follow the law.  “Twelve people will lose their jobs.  I just saved 12 jobs."

Protestors also argued that Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is turning his head the other way by choosing not to enforce the law that Albuquerque voters decided.

“Mayor Berry may be correct in saying that it's not his job to enforce it, but we believe that as the mayor of a city that just voted overwhelmingly to increase the minimum wage—he should take a position publicly," Rev. Holly Beaumont said. 

City Attorney David Tourek said the city does not have the right resources to enforce the law or the proper language in the ordinance to support enforcement.

"The law is the law,” Tourek said.  “It should be followed.  The voters spoke and they passed it overwhelmingly.  But in terms of enforcing it, the ordinance allows for the enforcement by a private employee with a private attorney."

Tourek explained that if an employer violates the minimum wage ordinance, it is not a crime.  He argued the best remedy for enforcement is for employees to sue their employers if they are not receiving a fair wage.