New Mexico governor backs $15 min wage for school workers

January 28, 2022 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham now backs a $15 minimum wage for school workers.

“I did get word five minutes before this hearing that the executive does support the $15 an hour minimum,” state Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus told legislators during a joint meeting of the state House and Senate on Friday.

A budget proposal from Lujan Grisham to the Legislature earlier this month had called for a $15 minimum wage for state workers, but not for school workers.

In a call with reporters on Jan. 7 touting a proposal to raise licensed teacher salaries by as much as 22%, Lujan Grisham said that school districts already had the capability to fund $15-per-hour salaries saying: “It is within the reach of the school districts. And frankly, they just need to do it.”

Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Sackett confirmed the governor’s support for the $15 minimum Friday.

Inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other stresses on the labor market are driving wage growth including in low-wage jobs that schools rely on to run, from bus drivers to cafeteria workers to custodians.

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In Santa Fe, a sign at Mcdonald’s advertises $14-per-hour starting pay, higher than the lowest paid part-time positions in local cafeterias in the local school district, just over $12 per hour.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth has said he supports the $15 minimum wage for public employees in state government and at public schools.

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Associated Press writer Morgan Lee contributed to this report.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.