Julia Castro, owner Café Castro, and self-described “capitalist with a socialist’s mentality.” “The reality is how much profit do you have to make? . . . Eventually, yes, it may catch up and cut deeper and it may make it not worth it because if I’m going to kill myself like I do, working from open to close, I want to make some money. If it gets to that point and I’m not happy with what I’m making then I will close, but that’s not what I want to do.”
Bill Dimas, city council member, in favor of capping the living wage. “In order to survive people need a living wage, so I’m in favor of it. The problem I have is the way we are giving increases, using an index used by cities a lot bigger than Santa Fe, rather than using our own economy. Consequently, our wage is second in the nation after San Francisco, and we’re no San Francisco.”
Frank Montaño, former city council member and a leading proponent. “One of the things we talked about early on was that we wanted parents to have more time with their young children, which is hugely important to the stability of the community and the family and in getting kids ready to start school. Because of the high cost of living here, a lot of these folks were not just working one full-time job, but two full-time jobs or a full-time job and a part-time job just to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. They weren’t able to have a family life. We wanted to help change that.”
Carol Oppenheimer, labor attorney at the forefront of the living wage campaign. “I would say to other communities considering this that it has to always be grass roots and that there has to be an organizing effort to reach out to as many workers as possible. There’s a lot of backsliding. The state legislature tried to preempt it, there was a lawsuit that delayed implementation, there’s the ongoing effort to cap it. The key is to have an involved community.”
Simon Brackley, president and chief executive, Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce: “It’s such an emotional issue. Every January, with every cost-of-living increase, it’s in the paper again. It’s an extremely complicated issue. More than anything else I would say to any community, it’s very complicated. A living wage doesn’t exist in isolation. There are so many other things going on. . . . What we see a lot is people who live elsewhere, like Rio Rancho, and they’ll work here because you can’t make $10.66 an hour in Rio Rancho. They come up here to work and take their paychecks out of town.”
Al Lucero, former longtime owner of Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, which he sold last year: “We didn’t want to avoid an increase in the minimum wage. We just didn’t want it to go as high as it did. We went from zero to 60 miles per hour overnight with our minimum wage . . . The mayor says, ‘The sky didn’t fall.’ Right. This is America. The sky is not going to fall over something like that because we have the wherewithal to live with it. But it certainly made it tough on a lot of entrepreneurs and small business operators. But they survived. Some didn’t.