Employers are raising wages, but is it enough?

We all succeed as a community when everyone has the resources not just to survive, but to thrive. New Mexicans have been working hard, especially through the pandemic, where they have been risking their health and safety. Many of those workers aren’t being fairly compensated for the difficult- and newly life-threatening- work they’re doing. Every single worker in New Mexico contributes a critical skill or service that fuels our community and economy, and they all deserve to earn a thriving wage.

Many workers in New Mexico and across the nation left service industry work during the pandemic, and many are choosing not to go back. According to the Washington Post, there are many reasons for this, including low wages, and abuse from both employers and customers in the workplace. Many have decided that, with the added health implications of the pandemic, it’s simply not worth risking their lives, and employers are starting to respond.

Restaurants and other businesses that typically offer low wages are starting to realize that they need to put their money where their mouth is. Workers are fed up with earning minimum wage while also experiencing abuse at the hands of customers, and coworkers. In response, employers are starting to raise wages because they know workers won’t settle for less. McDonalds for example is advertising starting wages around $11 to $17 per hour at some locations. Some Albuquerque businesses are following suit and are advertising higher starting wages in order to incentivize workers to apply. But are these higher wages enough?

Some employers are raising wages, but it’s more than likely just a temporary incentive. So far, we have not seen many business owners make a commitment to lasting change. While wages might be going up, the question remains: are those businesses addressing benefits, unpredictable schedules, or abusive behaviors in the workplace? Unfortunately, higher wages do not automatically address those issues. Business owners continue to act in their own self-interest, temporarily raising wages so they can keep their businesses afloat, but making no long-term effort to support the workforce that makes their profits possible.

Everyone wants to go to a job where they feel valued, and where they have dignity in the work that they do. Workers earning low wages are some of the most crucial workers in our communities. Without them, we would not have food, basic necessities like diapers or clothing, or even care for our sick, our youngest children, and our elders. Employers raising wages is a step in the right direction — it means that they’re recognizing that workers won’t settle for crumbs anymore. But, these temporary wage increases just won’t cut it when it comes to worker’s needs. It’s critical that we continue this momentum and expand on what is becoming a national labor movement. Employers and business owners need to know that if they want a solid, dependable workforce, they need to invest in the people who run their businesses, and commit to good benefits and working conditions for their employees.

-Iman Andrade

OLÉ is a community organization, who uses grassroots organizing within the local community of working families in New Mexico.