Raise Colorado’s Minimum Wage? Here’s What Workers Tell Us

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For the state’s lowest wage workers, the November election could deliver a big payday. Amendment 70 would raise Colorado’s minimum wage from its current level of $8.31 an hour to $12 an hour by 2020.

CPR has been asking how what this measure could mean for the state’s residents and businesses. We heard previously from employers. Today, we have thoughts from some workers about how it would affect them. Note that we've edited for clarity.

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Photo: Corletta Hithon, Minimum Wage Worker
Corletta Hithon.

Corletta Hithon: A home care provider, she lives in south Aurora.

Current income: $10.50 an hour, working 15 hours a week.

“People don’t realize that we’re moving bodies. Just imagine moving someone’s body, putting them in the tub, bathing them, dressing them. That’s a lot of weight on you. So the money they want to pay you for that manual labor is disrespectful. I just can’t even make it sound good. It’s so disrespectful.”

“I’ve been living with daughter, sleeping on my niece’s couch, living with my ex, soon to be living with my sister… and I had a place, because I was working 52 hours a week. But I wasn’t eating. I was paying my bills but I wasn’t eating.”

“This is not where I expected to be at 50-years-old. Are you kidding me?"

“I’m in a profession of taking care of people that don’t even allow me to take care of me.”

Photo: Melissa Hastings, Minimum Wage Worker
Melissa Hastings.

Melissa Hastings: She works in a factory that makes parts for dental braces and lives in Westminster. Hastings recently reentered the workforce after a divorce.

Current income: $11 an hour, working 40 or more hours a week.

“I’m a single mother. My daughter is 10, my son is 19… We live in a one-bedroom apartment. The kids have the bedroom. They have bunk beds in there. And I sleep in the dining room, so I don’t have a dining room. And you know, I thank God that I have it. But it’s really small."

“Last year in May is when I actually went back to work, because I was a stay-at-home mom for nine years. And when I did go back to work I started at a temp service so I was doing a whole bunch of different kind of jobs and most of those jobs were minimum wage, or like $9 an hour if you were lucky. And those are hard jobs. A lot of jobs that you get paid minimum wage, they’re hard jobs.”

“Right now, I am on food stamps and Medicaid. Getting $12 an hour, I would probably not be able to get food stamps any more. But it’s almost worth it. Because that means I’m making enough. Really, I probably still wouldn’t be. But it would feel like I am.”

“I would rather make that little bit of extra money so that I could take care of myself and not have to depend on the government to take care of me and my kids.”

Photo: Phil Alexander, Minimum Wage Worker
Phil Alexander.

Phil Alexander: Counter helper at Elemental Vapor Bar in Westminster.

Current income: $9 an hour, working 20 hours a week.

“This is typically my second job, but I am in between employment for finding another job as my primary. I tend to lean toward IT work. My primary jobs in the past have been, you know, somewhat rigorous and not a lot of fun, so I think it’s good to pick up some hours at a place where I work with friends and I’m able to talk to people.”

"I think an increase to minimum wage would really make this business struggle in that regard. And that’s definitely something I don’t want to see that happen.”

"I see on one hand that there’s definitely families out there that would be benefited by this increase. But at the same time, I firmly believe that at the end of the day, it’s kind of an entitlement.”

"I think it kind of incentivizes laziness to a degree. In my personal experience, especially with entry level positions, it can be difficult to get raises and promotions, but from most of my experience, if you just stick with it and persevere through it, they will come. So I think ultimately it falls down more on the American people than it does our government. I think people really need to realize that, work is hard, and if they want to make those big dollars, then there’s definitely avenues out there, but it just really takes that personal effort to get there."

Read More: Raise Colorado's Minimum Wage? Here's What Employers Tell Us