Rep. Chris Chandler Tuesday morning in the House Chamber. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
STATE LEGISLATURE NEWS
A bill to ensure New Mexicans are paid a fair wage for a hard day’s work advanced in the House Labor, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee. House Bill 246, sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos) would put some teeth in the Public Works Minimum Wage Act, reducing the financial incentive for contractors to break the law by underpaying their workers.
“Wage theft is a devastating problem for workers, impacting their ability to pay their bills and support their families. But it also hurts our economy and local communities by unfairly removing enormous purchasing power from workers who would otherwise be spending that money supporting local businesses,” Chandler said. “By closing these loopholes, providing a complaint resolution process, and increasing penalties for violations, we can lift up New Mexico’s economy and provide support for our local businesses.”
The Public Works Minimum Wage Act, or Little Davis-Bacon, was enacted in New Mexico in 1937 to provide a wage floor for government-funded construction projects. The purpose is to ensure that competition for government projects doesn’t drive down local wage rates—especially since wages make up a relatively small portion of project costs. The Public Works Minimum Wage Act has been amended several times over the decades, but a continuing challenge is enforcement of its provisions. Because of the lack of teeth in the Public Works Minimum Wage Act, there’s a significant financial incentive for unscrupulous companies to engage in wage theft.
House Bill 246 now moves to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.