On Thursday, April 8, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed HB 20, the Healthy Workplaces Act, making paid sick leave a reality in New Mexico.
The bill will allow employees to accrue one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked, which can be used for their own illness, whether mental or physical, or to care for a family member who is sick. In addition, employees have the ability to accrue paid time off for future use.
The bill defines “family” as “an individual whose close association with the employee or the employee's spouse or domestic partner is the equivalent of a family relationship.”
Rep. Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, worked closely with grassroots organizers on this legislation and was excited to finally see the bill get signed into law.
“I was constantly reminded that there was no way that our legislature would ever do something like this, and so I was glad that we were able to prove a lot of people wrong,” Rubio said.
Not everyone in the state is celebrating the passage of HB 20, however. Some in the local business community were worried about the effects it might have on the economy.
John Garcia, the executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico, argued that the passage of HB 20 would hurt an already struggling economy and ask even more of struggling businesses.
Garcia also argued against the bill’s broader definition of family, as opposed to the phrasing within the federal Family Medical Leave Act, but Rubio saw it as a way to further promote inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community.
“I think our legislation is a perfect example of what inclusivity means, especially for communities that have been marginalized for a very long time, (and) specifically for communities who represent LGBTQ+ communities,” Rubio said. “I don't know how many emails and phone calls I've received from folks saying that this is the first time that they've actually felt like they're being seen.”
Carla Villa, the owner of High Noon Restaurant and Saloon in Albuquerque, was concerned about the financial impact the bill will have on her business.
“There are several blanks and deficits and needs in things like health care and sick leave,” Villa said. “But to expect small businesses to be able to absorb that and be solely responsible for fixing it is going to create a business climate that makes it toxic for small businesses.”
Sebastian Echavarria, a freshman at UNM and a food service employee, said he’s glad people will no longer have to choose between their paycheck or their health.
“For an individual like myself who is taking classes and paying my own tuition at UNM, I can’t afford to lose out on any of my paychecks as most, if not all of that money goes towards schooling,” Echavarria said.
Echavarria said this change is necessary in the food service industry because of the nature of the work and the gravity of the pandemic.
“Food service workers have to serve lots of people per day and there should be no question that it could be disastrous to the business and community for any kind of sickness to be spread … (this is only) exacerbated by the current pandemic,” Echavarria said.
Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @madelinepukite