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City of Las Cruces passes minimum wage hike

City of Las Cruces passes minimum wage hike
KTSM
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POSTED: Monday, June 2, 2014 - 11:40pm

UPDATED: Monday, June 2, 2014 - 11:41pm

 The minimum wage in Las Cruces is going up. City Council approved a proposal to raise the minimum to $8.50 an hour by a 4 to 3 vote Monday.

But not everyone was happy with the decision.

"Businesses pay their employees what they can pay them," said Russell Allen.

Allen owns Allen Theaters, a locally owned chain with 21 movie theaters in New Mexico, including three in Las Cruces. 

He was at Monday's meeting asking Council to vote no to a minimum wage hike.

"It's going to cause me to not take that risk on the 16 year old kid who needs to get out," he said.

Allen said most of his employees are high school students looking for their first job and claims a higher minimum wage won't allow teens to take their first step in the job market.

"During that time we work with their schedule, we encourage them to do well in school,” Allen said. “Because quite frankly we don't want them working with us for the next 20 years."

But his argument wasn't enough to sway City Council.

Representatives approved raising the minimum wage to $8.50, a $1 increase. A $.50 increase will take effect July of 2015 and another $.50 in January of 2016.

"What Council is doing here is saying, well if we give them a dollar maybe they will stop complaining," said Denaly Wilson.

Wilson was among those who said the hike isn't nearly enough.

She used to make minimum wage -- and says you can't categorize all minimum earners into one category.

"People i worked with were families, they were elderly, they had a different number of need and they were not met by the wages they earned," said Wilson.

 CAFE, a faith based group, also asked Council to vote no on the increase.

They want it to increase to $10.10 by 2017 and have started collecting over 1,400 signatures to place their proposal on the ballot in November. Their goal is to get 6,000 signatures.

 “We also understand out community would like the opportunity to vote for it,” said CAFÉ group member Angelica Rubio.

Their proposal is something Allen said he definitely couldn’t afford.

"If it goes to $10.10 I won't hire a 16 year old," Allen said.

So while the minimum wage is going up -- this debate is likely far from over.

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