BARHA Question 7: Minimum Wage - Boulder Area Rental Housing Association

BARHA Question 7:  This past legislative session, a bill was passed allowing local governments to set their own minimum wage.   Do support an increase in minimum wage in Boulder? If so, how would an increase in wage effect small businesses here?

Aaron Brockett:  I do support an increase in the minimum wage in Boulder because of the high cost of living here. People currently making the minimum wage struggle mightily to get by in our community and would be more able to afford housing and other necessities with higher wages. The higher wages may be a challenge for some small businesses, but I think most Boulder consumers would be willing to tolerate small prices increases to account for the increased costs to the business.

Rachel Friend:  State minimum wage is currently $11.10/hour, and there is talk of increasing Boulder’s minimum wage to  $15.00/hour – potentially a jump of approximately $4 / hour. I support an increase in minimum wage in Boulder, with the caveat that we need to invite experts to the table to help us avoid pitfalls. Small businesses are an example of businesses that could inadvertently be harmed if we fail to implement this concept logically. Another example is industries that have set reimbursement rates, where they cannot simply pass on higher costs to consumers. An easy example of this comes from one of my old jobs — working for a non-profit that provided services and supports to individuals with disabilities.   We were a lean, values-driven non-profit, and we worked tirelessly to ensure that our    direct care staff received the best pay possible.   But we were 100% constrained by, and tethered to, reimbursement  rates that were set and paid by the state.   We advocated like crazy for reimbursement rates that could boost staff   wages. But we could not wave a wand and pay our staff more; we required state rate adjustments that would     reimburse us at a higher rate to be able to pass those higher wages on to staff. If Boulder requires a higher minimum wage, yet reimbursement wages from the state remains unchanged — the math doesn’t work out. So as we implement higher minimum wages locally, we need to ensure our critical services can stay afloat in light of all ripple effects.

Bob Yates:  The Boulder City Council has not taken this up. Like rent control, raising minimum wage may have unintended consequences, not only for local businesses, but also for the employees themselves, including reduction in hours and the “cliff effect” of losing social service benefits that may be more valuable than the increased wages. The community will want to carefully consider these consequences if it ever takes up the question.

Junie Joseph:  I think Boulder should set a higher minimum wage, reflecting the higher cost of living here, but also realizing that this could negatively affect small businesses. Small businesses who are paying high rent will have a hard time keeping their doors open. It will be tough because it will be hard for them to make a small margin of profit between paying the new living wage and the amount of rent. We also need to work on workforce education to support small businesses and incentivize co-working/sharing spaces. The reason why it is so hard to live in Boulder is because housing is so expensive.

Mark Wallach:     Yes, I do, even acknowledging that it puts additional stress upon small businesses, and that in some cases jobs will be lost as a result. Governing is the act of making choices, and for me the imperative of providing a bit more economic justice for low-wage workers trumps the effects of doing so.

Adam Swetlik:  I do, with a graduated scale. The living wage in Boulder County is currently just under $15. I think by 2021 we should hit $15. Small businesses in Boulder are much more impacted by higher rents pushing out existing business, as has been stated by multiple business owners upon closing. We need to look at this issue to help small businesses specifically. Sacrificing the ability for low-wage workers to live here by not imposing a living wage would only make our growing inequality exacerbate even faster.