Minimum wage increase will have little impact until 2009

Starting today the federal minimum wage will be increased from $5.85 to $6.55, but it won’t matter in Colorado.


A recent provision in Colorado’s constitution already requires workers to be paid a minimum wage of $7.02, a rate that is adjusted each year based on inflation rates.


Voters in the state passed Amendment 42, a constitutional measure raising the minimum wage, in 2006.


On the federal level, Congress passed a 2007 law increasing the national minimum wage through a three-part process: $.5.85 in 2007, $6.55 in 2008, and $7.25 in 2009. Before that the minimum wage was at a stagnant $5.15, having not been increased in nearly a decade.


The raise in wages comes at a time when the federal labor department is taking serous flack for not enforcing wage laws and instead focusing on efforts against labor unions under the Bush administration.  


Colorado’s minimum wage in 2009 has not been determined yet, so there’s no telling if the federal rate will be greater than the state rate at that time. Legally, employers have to follow both regulations and pay the highest wage.


As it stands, the $7.02 wage in Colorado isn’t enough to be self-sufficient anywhere in the state, according to a recent study released in 2008, where self-sufficiency is defined as being able to afford housing, food and health care without the aid of government services.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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