Minimum wages in the city and county will increase to $14.03 per hour March 1, both governments reported Wednesday.
The 8.3% increase from the current $12.95 per hour is based on the 2022 increase of the consumer price index for the western region Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers report, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Both government use the index to adjust the minimum wage each March.
Eyebrows were raised earlier this week when Santa Fe County posted on its website a 78-cent minimum wage increase for March 1 to $13.73 per hour — a 6% increase. The city came to realize Tuesday the county had calculated a different living wage.
Both governments conferred Tuesday afternoon, finally agreeing on $14.03 per hour.
The city and county used different sets of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data to calculate the consumer price index. The county for the first time used the agency’s year-over-year table, while the city used a raw data table as the county had also done in past years, county operations manager Sara Smith said.
The city and county, however, have different tipped minimum wages, most commonly used in the restaurant sector. The county is increasing the tipped minimum from $3.88 to $4.21, while the city remains at the state tipped minimum wage of $3 per hour, which the state increased Jan. 1 from $2.80.
Employers in the city of Santa Fe are required to pay all workers at least the living wage, the city noted in a news release, as are businesses in unincorporated Santa Fe County.
“The living wage increase to $14.03 is a significant increase, but it still leaves too many working people and families without enough in their paychecks,” Mayor Alan Webber said in a news release. “Currently, no city employee makes less than $15 per hour. Watching the Legislature in this session, I’m hopeful that there will be a statewide increase in the minimum wage. Once their work is done, we can evaluate our next step when it comes to the living wage in Santa Fe.”
Webber did not respond to an email or call for comment.
The city of Santa Fe was the first jurisdiction in the country in 2003 to approve a higher minimum wage than state and federal minimum wages. San Francisco followed Santa Fe a few months later and the two cities had the highest minimum wages in the country until 2012.
Since then, dozens of cities and even five states have passed Santa Fe’s living wage in a decade where $15 per hour has become a battle cry for many cities and states following the “Fight for $15” campaign among fast-food workers in 2012 in New York City.
“What does all this add up to? The so-called Fight for $15 continues, but many jurisdictions are well beyond that threshold,” GovDocs.com reported. “And employers are facing continual challenges to keep up with lawmakers’ efforts to craft new minimum wage rates.”
The Santa Fe region will be within 97 cents of $15 per hour — but 51 cities and counties have minimum wages higher than $15 per hour, including Flagstaff, Ariz., at $16.80 per hour.
Three states in March will have higher minimum wages than Santa Fe: California, Massachusetts and Washington.
Santa Fe has been locked into the consumer price index for 14 years as more than 50 cities/counties and 30 states since 2012 have used their own criteria to increase minimum wages above the federal minimum.
New Mexico had a rate increase schedule from 2020 to 2023 to take the statewide minimum from $7.50 to $12 per hour.
The state minimum wage increases even leapfrogged Albuquerque and Las Cruces in 2021. Those cities had higher minimum wages since 2007 and 2015, respectively, but chose not to go higher when the state minimum reaching $10.50 in 2021.
The city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County are the only places in New Mexico now with higher minimum wages.
The city of Santa Fe has not altered the living wage ordinance in 20 years. Santa Fe County adopted its own living wage ordinance in 2014.
At Webber’s request, The Food Depot in June produced a Report to the Mayor: Ensuring Every Child in Santa Fe has Access to Sufficient and Nutritious Food that called for immediately raising the living wage to $17 per hour and phase up to $20 per hour.
“After that, there was discussion to put together a task force [to address the minimum wage and cost of living in general],” City Councilor Jamie Cassutt said in an interview. “I look forward to convening a task force. How can people live in our community? How do we increase earnings and decrease the cost of living? We have to look at how much people are earning and how much they are spending.”
Such a task force has not been established.
The City Council does not appear to be poised to reconsider the 2003 Living Wage Ordinance, Councilor Signe Lindell said.
“I haven’t heard anybody mention that as a focus of legislation,” Lindell said in an interview. “That’s not a project on my legislative agenda right now.”
Lindell said she believes altering the living wage ordinance would be a battle.
“There are people with deep feelings on both sides,” she said. “It’s a sizable debate.”
Councilor Michael Garcia wrote in an email he would like to revisit the living wage debate, noting he remembers Santa Fe as a minimum wage leader.
“I believe Santa Fe needs to have a living wage that is reflective of our current economy,” Garcia wrote. “Santa Fe has always been a leader of ensuring our workers are paid a fair and livable wage. We need to return to these values and support the irreplaceable employees in our community earning a minimum wage.”
Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth did not show her hand regarding the living wage ordinance.
“We have to see what the Legislature does with the minimum wage,” Romero-Wirth said. “We’ll see what passes. It’s hard to evaluate what we should do until we see what the Legislature does.”