Colorado Springs business owners and workers divided over minimum wage hike

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — For the first time in 10 years, people in Colorado will have a chance to vote on the minimum wage.

Amendment 70 proposes to raise the current wage over the next four years, but it has many business owners divided.

This is only the second time residents in Colorado have voted on the minimum wage, dating back to 2006 when voters approved an increase equal to the consumer price index.

Amendment 70 proposes to increase the current $8.31 per hour wage to $9.30 per hour in 2017 and then increase it 90 cents each year until the wage reaches $12.00 in 2020.

If the measure passes, small local businesses like Circle Feed and Pet Supply will be faced with a financial challenge.

“We don’t have enough staff as it is so to have to pay that much and keep it going and get product when we need it would be very hard to maintain,” store manager Amy Clipner said.

The 22-year-old admits she makes more than minimum wage now, but is only one of three employees. She also says she would benefit from a $12.00 wage.

Just two miles and 7 minutes down the road, you’ll find Poor Richard’s Cafe.

“The average employee has been with us three years,” owner Richard Skorman said.  “We have quite a few who have been with us 15 and 20 years.”

Skorman started with a bookstore 41 years ago.  He and his wife have since added a cafe, restaurant and toy store as well as 54 employees.  Michelle Jones is one who has been with the place for three years.

“I love working here,”  Jones said.  “It’s a family environment. We all get along. And, we’re paid decent and it it helps to keep you here.”

Skorman says he starts his employees at $12.50 an hour.  He believes everyone should receive a livable wage.

“What we realize if we have people who work with us for a long time and they do the job of an employee and a half,” he said.  “So, it’s important to have people to stay with us. Plus, they’re much more pleasant with our customers and that’s the key to small business success.”

The minimum wage for tipped workers remains at $3.02 less than the state minimum wage.

Amendment 70 proposes to increase the tipped minimum wage to $8.98 per hour plus tips.

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