ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Living Wage Coalition here has collected 30,000 signatures on petitions to place a measure on the Oct. 4 ballot to increase the minimum wage in this city from $5.50 an hour to $7.50. On Aug. 4 the County Clerk verified 22,000 signatures, well over the 13,889 needed to achieve ballot status.

Unions, churches and civic groups have been strongly involved in gathering signatures. Carter Bundy, political action director of AFSCME, the public employees union, said members of that union collected thousands of valid signatures.

The coalition’s integrity was defended at a press conference Aug. 1 following allegations by the Bernallilo County Sheriff’s Office of signature fraud. A small group of petitioners had admitted forging signatures on a petition to get the proposed ordinance on the ballot.

“ACORN and the coalition have been working very hard to gather these signatures and I don’t think that their integrity should be questioned,” said Mariana Lucero, representing Enlace Comitario, a Latino committee to combat domestic violence and struggle for immigrant rights. The Livable Wage Ordinance has been strongly opposed by the city’s Chamber of Commerce and especially the county sheriff, who just happens to have been the county director of the campaign to elect Bush in 2004.