Two hundred thousand petition signatures which fit into about 77 boxes were delivered to the Colorado Secretary of State today at noon on National Minimum Wage Day. Only 97, 492 of those need to qualify as Colorado registered voters to place Initiative 101 on November’s ballot. The boxes held visible community support for a minimum wage which if passed by voters in November, will raise the existing federal minimum wage of $7.25 to $12 by January 1, 2020 for Colorado and the tipped wage to $8.98/hr.
On the corner of 17th and Broadway outside of the Secretary of State’s Office Colorado Families for a Fair Wage members talked about the need for a minimum wage. Marrisa Guerrero is a certified nursing assistant and said that to survive, many are working a full-time job along with part-time ones, “Sometimes our second job is our full-time job as well. I also work part-time in an assisted living facility. Making $600 every two weeks is just not enough.” She said she filled for someone at her nursing assistant job who did not show up, “I did it out of the kindness of my heart but also because I needed the money. I didn’t want to leave him lying in bed by himself with nobody to take care of him, “I’m here fighting for $12/hr by 2020 but would really like it right now, right this second, but 2020 will do. It would do us wonders. That’s why I’m fighting for $12/hr so that we can get out of poverty, and start making a living for our families, for our community and for ourselves.”
But a group calling themselves Keep Colorado Working has come out in opposition to the measure saying that the initiative would hurt the very people that it’s meant to help, “It will eliminate entry level jobs, hit rural communities disproportionately hard, position Colorado as a non-competitive state, and would reduce Colorado wages $3.9 billion by 2022.” They say that if passed 90,000 Coloradans will lose their jobs because small companies and rural businesses will not be able to afford the increase. Other groups that are opposed to the measure are The Colorado Farm Bureau, The National Federation of Independent Businesses, The Tavern League, Colorado Business Roundtable and the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association according to Keep Colorado Working.
Still some small business owners say that the bigger picture will show that customers will have more to spend at their businesses, “$12 by 2020 is the right thing for businesses, according to Yoav Lurie, CEO and Founder of Simple Energy, “Higher wages drive better results, give customers more money to spend in our businesses, and create a better business climate. That’s why the majority of business leaders support raising the minimum wage.” The businesses Vine Street Pub and Brewery, Color Me Mine, and Polar Bottle have also expressed support for the measure.
Additional businesses had already increased wages to $11 an hour including Qdoba in Greeley and reported less employee turnover, less absenteeism, improved evaluations on customer surveys, and improved sales. Since less turnover means less retraining, less recruitment, less re-staffing, the business is calculated by the Center for American Progress to save 16% of an employee’s annual salary through retention.
Patty Kupfer, Campaign Manager for Colorado Families for a Fair Wage said that the measure is smart for people to because, “people shouldn’t be working full-time and living in poverty or relying on government assistance. To make ends meet. It’s smart because when working people have more money in their pockets, they spend it, boosting the states economy. We’re lucky here in Colorado that our economy is strong, but we’re here today because the cost of living is going up dramatically and wages have not kept up especially for those at the bottom. It seems like every week there’s a new report coming out about housing costs in Denver growing faster than anywhere in the country. And it’s not just Denver. Housing across the state is skyrocketing. So raising the wage means more purchasing from Colorado businesses, boosting our economies, and helping our communities thrive. We’ve had thousands of conversations with voters all across the state during this effort. And it’s clear that Colorado voters overwhelmingly support raising the wage. When we do win, half a million Coloradans will get a raise that they desperately do need. It will be a win for hardworking families, a win for local businesses, and a win for our economy.”
Caroline Castile is one Denver resident who spoke to Colorado voters as she gathered signatures and told The Nation Report what the sentiment was around the state, “A lot of excitement around the notion that we’re doing something because it’s so widely felt that [the minimum wage] we have now is just not enough; $8.31 an hour just doesn’t pay the rent and doesn’t pay the other things that are basic, like pay the bills and buy groceries. So people were just really excited that they were going to have the chance to really affect that change as voters. People were also excited about the increases that it would set forth in the future even beyond 2020. People should not only be able to survive but also thrive. In the past a minimum wage job was enough to raise a family on and it’s just not the case anymore. I think a lot of single people are in shock and awe that people can even manage to do that. From single folks to families alike, everyone knows that we just need to raise the wage.”