Many of you have noticed that the Chamber has been heavily involved in the minimum wage increase discussion that has been going on here in Las Cruces. The direction of the discussion has tended toward the emotional side while neglecting those who would have this wage increase mandated upon them- you the local business community. There seems to be a consensus that our local business community has plenty of extra cash and they just need to be willing to share it.
Another ploy used by those in support of a minimum wage increase is to dismiss the concerns of the local business community by citing studies where minimum wage has been raised in other parts of the country, but they are not comparing apples to apples. Las Cruces is not Seattle, not Santa Fe or even Albuquerque. We do not have the same economic factors in play. We also do not have the same labor force. While we do have a few major corporations here most of the businesses are small and locally owned. The increase to the employer is really even greater when you include the employer’s portion of taxes and social security.
Here is the bottom line, not every job is meant to support a family or even an individual. In some jobs the work is light and or the skill level low and would be best suited for an entry level person or someone who doesn’t necessarily need a lot of income like someone who has retired but wants to stay busy. The problem is someone who is trying to raise a family or put themselves through college takes that kind of job. Maybe it is the only job available to them but it was never meant to be a career to support their situation in life. Then we have groups who take that situation and twist it to make businesses with those types of jobs available seem evil instead of recognizing those who need a better job really need help with improving themselves to qualify for a job which pays more. And there are many jobs unfilled in our community right now that pays well above the current minimum wage.
The Chamber has been active in many discussions recently with all types and sizes of businesses in our community. Many businesses are not going to hire employees because they cannot be sure of their cost of doing business and their ability to sustain themselves with an unreasonable minimum wage along with the known and unknown future costs of the Affordable Care Act. Many will hire at facilities in other states instead of here and would consider moving the jobs here to those facilities as well. Many have said they will cut back on employees to be able to pay the ones they keep at the proposed wage. Some have said they will probably have to close because the margins will not support more overhead and they will no longer be able to make a profit. Some have said they will pass the increase along to the consumer by increasing prices, while others have said that doing that would keep them from being competitive in their industry and would result in a loss of business. Some are just plain tired of fighting the seemingly never-ending roadblocks that are continually placed in front of them here in Las Cruces and are ready to just sell out and leave. One of our own local NMSU Economics Professors has said that this drastic increase will hurt local small business.
These are just some issues associated with this unreasonable increase and there are more; they are not as some have said - scare tactics. They are the realities businesses are facing and should you forget, businesses are made up of people. People who work and support families, theirs and others through the jobs they provide. People, who pay taxes, donate to the community, who are trying to put their kids through college and maybe save a little to retire on. Many, work right next to their employees and many work long after their employees have gone home. While some just barely make a living, some have been extremely successful and have become wealthy. All got to where they are not by chance or luck but by working smart and working hard.
Some do more for their employees than you can imagine right here in our community. There are business owners that have paid for the funeral expenses or the hospital bill of an employee or an employee’s family member, others that have kept an employee on the payroll for decades after they could no longer physically work. Still others have helped finance a home or auto for an employee, paid tuition and many have even bailed employees out of jail more than once. They are for the most part not the heartless group they are sometimes made out to be in our community. The fact is most already pay more than minimum wage, especially when justified by hard work and dedication by the employee to their job.
Another troubling fact is that those who are pushing this issue and other issues that are not in the best interest of this community are not from this community, nor is the financial backing that supports them. They are not community organizations that have worked for decades for the good of our city, they are special interest groups which have recently popped up with their own agenda tied to an outside organization based in some other place that has no investment in Las Cruces.
Some accuse the Chamber, an organization that has been here for decades supporting the community, the schools, the University, and countless nonprofit organizations of being too political lately. Our primary mission even though we do a lot more is to support the business community. If in this day and age the business community is undermined in the political arena, then it will be in the political arena that we will support it and build it back. We will continue to advocate on issues for the business community and we will continue to nurture and support the business community of today and create fertile ground for the business community of tomorrow.