Minimum Wage Update

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This week, the minimum wage debate heated up in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio. The American Booksellers Association is encouraging its members in those areas and elsewhere to reach out to town, county, or state officials to ensure they have a voice in any minimum wage discussions that take place in their communities.

Colorado: Minimum Wage Increase Likely to Be on November Ballot

In Colorado, the Secretary of State approved a November ballot initiative, Initiative 101, which would increase the minimum wage by $0.90 each year until 2020, as reported by The state’s minimum wage is presently $8.31 per hour, and $5.29 for workers who receive tips. The article noted that Colorado Families for a Fair Wage is behind Initiative 101.

To put the initiative on the ballot, Colorado Families for a Fair Wage submitted more than double the number of signatures needed. The group argues that increasing the minimum wage would boost the state’s economy. However, opponents, such as Keep Colorado Working, contend that the initiative would harm small businesses, particularly those in rural areas. Keep Colorado Working is also concerned that the increase in the minimum wage would prompt businesses to lay off or hire fewer workers, subsequently contributing to higher teen unemployment rates.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office must review the signatures by September 7.

Iowa: Linn County Supervisors Mull Wage Increase

Linn County Supervisors are considering a recommendation by a volunteer study group to increase the minimum wage in the county to $8.25 starting next year, as reported by KCRG TV9

The proposal would increase the minimum wage in the county by a dollar each year, starting in 2017, until the minimum wage reaches $10.25 an hour in 2019. Cities in Linn County, which includes Cedar Rapids, would have the option to accept the ordinance, modify it to their own liking, or opt out completely.

KCRG noted that at least one small business opposes the wage hike. Shawna Lane, who runs Sub City, noted that, besides herself, her restaurant has two employees, who she pays just slightly above the current minimum wage. “I’d probably have to raise prices, and I wouldn’t be able to afford anything extra for the business,” she told KCRG. “I think it should be based on what the business wants, not what the county wants... or what the business can do,” Lane said.

While Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett supports an increase in the minimum wage, he told KCRG that he disagrees with a gradual increase over the next three years. “I personally think we should get together every year, take in consideration the economic times, take in consideration the work force and labor shed,” Corbett said.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors is meeting again on Wednesday, August 17, for a vote to ask the county attorney to officially start drafting the ordinance.

Minnesota: Minneapolis City Council Blocks Vote for Minimum Wage Increase

In early August, the Minneapolis City Council voted to block a charter amendment proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. The council stated that the charter amendment did not meet the legal requirements necessary to place it on the ballot in November, as reported by the Star Tribune.

According to Valley News, the council believes the proposal is an ordinance and thus subject only to council vote; however, those advocating for the proposal contend it is a charter amendment that can be placed on the ballot via citizen petition.

In June, dozens of minimum wage advocates — including the groups 15 Now, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) — handed in petitions with the signatures of approximately 20,000 people in support of a minimum wage increase. Under the proposal, the city charter would require all businesses to increase wages beginning in 2017. The minimum wage for businesses with 500 or more employees would be $10 per hour starting in August 2017, with the amount increasing each year until 2020, when it would be $15 per hour. Smaller businesses would be required to increase wages incrementally until they reached $15 per hour in August 2022.

Members of 15 Now have filed a lawsuit against the city in an attempt to get the charter amendment on the ballot.

Ohio: Cleveland Rejects Minimum Wage … For Now

Last week, following months of debate and public hearings, the Cleveland City Council officially rejected a proposal to set the city’s minimum wage at $15 an hour, as reported by the Plain Dealer. However, the group Raise Up Cleveland, which has the support of unions such as SEIU and AFL-CIO, is exploring the remaining options to get the minimum wage increase on the November ballot.

The Cleveland City Council voted against the wage increase because its members believe a minimum wage hike in Cleveland alone, while the rest of the state remains at $8.10, would stifle job growth and spur an exodus of business from the city.

However, prior to the city council vote, Harriet Applegate, executive secretary of the Cleveland AFL-CIO, encouraged council members to put the needs of impoverished residents ahead of those of business owners, the Plain Dealer reported. Applegate said many of the business owners who have testified before council this summer in opposition to the wage increase are good corporate citizens, but their interests should not override those of the voiceless and powerless workers living in poverty.