In 2006, opponents warned that jobs would be lost and the state’s economy would suffer if voters approved a ballot initiative to raise Colorado’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85. But the sky did not fall. In fact, in the two years after Coloradans approved the measure, the economy generated more than 3,000 new small businesses which created over 15,000 new jobs.
Colorado voters should keep those numbers in mind when considering Amendment 70, a ballot initiative in the upcoming election that will gradually raise the minimum wage from $8.31 an hour to $12 an hour by 2020. As a coalition partner in the Colorado Families for a Fair Wage campaign, CCLP strongly supports Amendment 70.
Despite renewed claims from opponents who say that raising the wage is bad for small business, evidence and recent history suggests that Amendment 70 would provide a boost for small businesses in the state. An independent study by the University of Denver concluded that Amendment 70 will increase incomes of 20 percent of Colorado families and collectively increasing wages up to$700 million, while growing the state‘s gross domestic product (or GDP) by $400 million a year.
According to a survey conducted by the Small Business Majority, a national small-business advocacy organization, 60 percent of small-business owners supported raising the wage. So far, nearly 200 business owners across Colorado have endorsed Amendment 70. According to data from Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the vast majority of small businesses (those with few than 50 employees) already pay average wages above $12 an hour.
Savvy small-business owners also know that offering a living wage can positively impact their bottom line: Higher wages motivate workers to work harder, attract more capable workers, and decrease turnover.
“The anticipated hit to the bottom line never happened,” said Judy Amabile, owner of Polar Bottle, who recently raised starting pay at her Boulder-based insulated bottle manufacturer to $12 an hour. “Our employees were more productive. Turnover decreased dramatically. People were able to get their cars fixed. They had better child care options. They valued their jobs more. Our per-unit labor costs actually went down.”
Amendment 70 would also put more money in the pockets of customers – stimulating consumer spending and economic growth. According to CCLP’s Self Sufficiency Standard, there isn’t a single county in the state where a parent could support even one child while working a minimum-wage job without relying on public assistance. Raising the wage to $12 an hour would let more of these families spend their hard-earned wages locally while increasing consumer demand (one of small-business owners’ primary concerns).
Those are just a few reasons why voters should get behind this pro-business, pro-Coloradan initiative.
– Jesus Loayza