Working People

Issue Spotlight: Working People

Background:

  • The current state minimum wage is $8.23/hour; someone working full time at that rate would earn approximately $18,000 per year, well below the federal poverty level
  • Although the US economy appears to have recovered from the financial meltdown of 2008, wages continue to stagnate, leading to greater income inequality as the US ranks 60th out of 174 countries in terms of income equality

Current situation:
In the last election cycle, multiple cities and counties across the country passed higher minimum wage ordinances for their localities: Albuquerque, NM; Bernalillo County, NM; Montgomery County, MD; Prince George’s County, MD; San Francisco, CA; San Jose, CA; Santa Fe, NM; Santa Fe County, NM; and Washington DC and the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. The city of Los Angeles recently approved a $15/hour minimum wage. However, in most states, local jurisdictions are not legally allowed to raise the minimum wage above what is established by the state legislature. This state “preemption” of local minimum wage laws prevents localities from establishing a living wage to reflect the economic realities of their locations. Communities in Colorado are also unable to set their own minimum wage due to the state’s preemption law on minimum wage (SB99-014) passed in 1999.

Solution:
The Community Rights Amendment would not retroactively annul SB99-014, but it would prevent corporations from using state preemptive laws to overturn local community standards like a minimum wage.

Q & A:
Q: Why not simply change the state law to allow for local wage standards?

A: A bill in the 2015 legislative session (HB 15-1300) that would have repealed the 1999 law passed the House but was tabled by the Senate. The 1999 law was passed at the behest of the Colorado Retail Council, lobbyist for Wal-Mart, JC Penney, Target, Safeway and Kroger. Since that time, and thanks to the 2010 Citizens United decision, large corporations have an ever-increasing influence on public policy. Political parties are so beholden to moneyed interests for campaign contributions they avoid introducing any legislation that would upset those interests. The Community Rights Amendment is designed to assert local sovereignty on matters with direct local impact. State level government has simply become too corrupt to reform.

Q: Doesn’t a higher minimum wage lead to job loss?

A: Not true according to the US Department of Labor. Because 70% of all economic activity in the US is from spending, increasing the income of everyday Americans would actually boost purchasing power of millions of Americans, and thus lead to more spending and therefore more job growth.