Minimum Wage

Updated at 4: 25 p.m. ET

A bill to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour has cleared a legislative hurdle that sets it up for a vote by the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

This move in Congress is a sign of broader political momentum for the minimum wage issue, long embraced by progressives who were key to the Democrats taking control of the House. The matter is poised to play prominently in the 2020 presidential campaign.

Matt Bloom / KUNC

The new year brings with it yet another increase to Colorado's minimum wage. As of Jan. 1, the new wage will be $11.10 for non-tipped workers, $8.08 for tipped.

It's the latest rise triggered by Amendment 70, a constitutional amendment passed in 2016. The measure incrementally increases the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

Jackie Fortier / KUNC

Michelle Edwards is one of the owners of the Johnstown Lunch Box, a sandwich shop in one of the fastest growing towns on the Front Range. Despite a customer base that grows with each new housing development, Edwards was worried about what the 90 cent increase in the state minimum wage in January, 2017 would mean for her business -- but she has been pleasantly surprised.

“We’ve been fine. Customers were totally fine when we raised the cost of our sandwiches 25 cents,” she said. “It helped. Honestly, a little bit more would be good, but in a small town, you can only do so much. You gotta keep your prices low.”

Adam Croot / Flickr

Colorado workers who earn minimum wage will see more money in their paychecks starting in the New Year.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2017 the minimum wage will go up to $9.30 an hour, an increase of 99 cents. Under Amendment 70, which was passed by voters in the Nov. 2016 election, the minimum wage will rise every year by 90 cents until it reaches $12 an hour in 2020.

After 2020, it may rise based on inflation.

David Anderson

The fall of 2013 did not seem like a great time to buy a small candy store in Estes Park. The town’s economy was in iffy shape. Flooding had decimated roads into and out of the mountain community. Internet and cellphone service, not to mention grocery delivery, were out for days.

Right after the flood, Mark and Kelly Igel took the plunge and bought the Taffy Shop - and the secret recipe from the retiring original owner. They were betting that people would still come to the tourism-dependent town on the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park for a piece of old-fashioned candy and charm.

“We’ve lived here for years,” Mark Igel said. “We knew the town would bounce back.”

A Taste Of The Minimum Wage Debate In Colorado

Sep 28, 2016
Jackie Fortier / KUNC

The Johnstown Lunch Box is clean and bright. A chalkboard sign advertises a Chicago-style hot dog for $5.99. The restaurant is packed with oil and gas workers, high school students and parents with kids.

Chris and Michelle Edwards started the business seven years ago.

“I was in lending and banking before and we just wanted to do something different when the whole financial crisis hit,” Edwards said.  “We live in town, so we were just thinking what was missing in here where we want to eat at.”  

Colorado Debates Minimum Wage Measure

Sep 27, 2016
Bente Birkeland

Colorado is among a handful of states where voters are being asked if the minimum wage should be increased. Proponents say the bump for the lowest-paid workers would help struggling families. Many businesses say it could prompt layoffs.

Your Guide To Colorado's 2016 Ballot

Sep 6, 2016
Creative Commons

Medical aid in dying, a boost in the minimum wage and a measure to make it harder to amend Colorado’s constitution are among the 9 measures that voters will have to sift through on their ballots. This guide breaks down those statewide issues.

screencap courtesy Colorado Department of Labor and Employment

The economy is a top issue on voters' minds as the election approaches. In Colorado, voters might be faced with a ballot measure asking them whether or not to raise the state's current $8.31 hourly minimum wage.

First, Initiative 101 [.pdf] backers have to turn in enough signatures to get on the ballot. If they clear that hurdle, voters will decide whether or not they want to see the minimum wage rise to $9.30 per hour. With built-in annual increases, the state's minimum would eventually be $12.00 by 2020.

Joe Mahoney / Rocky Mountain PBS I-News

From Moffat to Alamosa counties, Colorado is a big player in the nation's sheep industry.

The animals thrive in the state's high, dry mountains. Colorado ranked third in the value of sales of sheep and goats at $87 million in 2012, the latest data available, according to a 2014 USDA fact sheet.

Sheepherders – mostly immigrant guest workers from South America on H2-A visas – are responsible for the health of the flocks, day to day. The workers aren't subject to minimum wage like other farm workers. Instead their wages are set specially by the federal government at $750 a month in Colorado, a wage that has increased by only $50 in the past 20 years for most states, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Now the sheep industry is girding itself for what it sees as a storm.