What are you going to do with your windfall? Colorado now has a minimum wage of $12 per hour. Did you hear that collective sigh of relief? Gone are the days when hourly wage workers in the state had to stress over whether or not they could afford food, rent, insurance, clothing, transportation, utilities, or phone payments. According to our legislators, we have hit the threshold necessary to meet the demand of inflation and rising costs. Some of you might remember those darker years when the minimum wage in Colorado was:
- $9.30 or $372/40-hour week in 2017
- $10.20 or $408/40-hour week in 2018
- $11.10 or $444/40-hour week in 2019
Could you imagine surviving on such insufficient wages?
So, what will you do with your raise? Squirrel some of it away into a savings account? Pay off a student loan? Take that vacation you most certainly deserve? How about a new pair of comfortable shoes?
Well, if you’re like most hourly wage earners in the state, you’ll no doubt continue to struggle with the rising cost of living, most notably with an eye on rental prices.
Don’t be complacent nor tepidly satisfied with this modest increase to the minimum wage. Twelve dollars per hour is moving in the right direction, but it is not at all satisfactory. We must push our legislators to move to a $15 minimum wage. We can start by passing legislation stipulating that large companies with a minimum of 500 employees pay their hourly workers at least that amount.
There are companies that are not paying their hourly earners a sufficient living wage even though their executives and shareholders are making surplus dollars off their backs.
These corporations or parent corporations, posting millions (and billions) of dollars in profits each year, need to be held accountable.
How about we use some of those profits to allow our most hardworking employees a chance at an equitable life?
Let’s take a look at the franchise model, an arm of the corporate world that employs millions of workers. Now, let’s get creative and ease the predominant concern of franchise owners. Hey, parent corporation profiteers raking in untold wealth, how about you put some of those fees you collect from your franchisees toward making up the difference of a $15 hourly minimum? This would help to offset the cost of a more sufficient wage (especially in cities) while alleviating the anxiety of franchise owners.
Do you think those people in the executive boardrooms are cycling through their paychecks and stimulating the economy? No, they’re pocketing their prosperity and sticking their middle finger in your eye.
Much remains to be said, and more attention is needed on the shift toward part-time and gig economy labor. At the very least, it’s high time we demand that the people who do hourly work get paid a modern, living wage.
Kevin Sheffler is a second-year social work student nearing the end of his program at the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work.
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