Minimum change: 4 cents won’t make much difference
It will take more than 4 cents per hour to make much of a difference at Main Street Bagels in Grand Junction.
Employees earn Colorado’s minimum wage of $7.28 an hour when they start at the bagel shop, but they get a raise within the first three months of working there. Co-owner Missy Smith said she probably won’t even notice when the minimum wage decreases to $7.24 next summer.
Colorado is the first state to decrease its minimum wage, since the federal minimum wage law was passed in 1938.
“That isn’t a very big deal to us,” Smith said of the slight decrease. “We may have one or two people on minimum wage (at a time). Everyone else is making a lot more than that.”
Finding a business that pays minimum wage to many employees is hard to find in Grand Junction.
That’s because pay on the Western Slope, especially in recent years, depends more on the going rate for other jobs than the level of the minimum wage, according to Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Diane Schwenke.
She said she knows of few chamber members that offer employees a minimum wage, given competition for jobs during robust gas drilling years. Wages haven’t deflated much since Grand Junction’s unemployment rate began to climb, either, Schwenke said.
“If there’s any good news in it,” she said of the rate decrease, “it’s not in the four cents; it’s that the rate is not increasing.”
The minimum wage is set to drop from $4.26 to $4.22 an hour for jobs that involve an employee receiving tips, and it will go from $7.28 an hour to $7.24 an hour in all other positions.
The federal minimum wage is $2.13 an hour for tip-receiving jobs and $7.25 an hour for others.
The ability to drop the minimum wage started after Colorado voters adopted Amendment 42 in November 2006. The amendment increased the minimum wage and allowed the Division of Labor to adjust the minimum wage each year based on inflation.
This was good news for employees when the Denver-Boulder-Greeley consumer price index increased 2.2 percent between 2006 and 2007 and increased 3.9 percent from 2007 to 2008.
But the rate is expected to deflate anywhere from 0.4 percent to 1.6 percent next year.
The rate change won’t make much difference except for possibly allowing business owners to hold off on raises, Pablo’s Pizza co-owner Paul Knaysi said.
“As far as anyone dropping their wage, I’d be really surprised,” he said.
Knaysi said one good thing about economic changes is that he can be a bit choosier about who he hires and retains.
Last year, he received just 10 applications all year. Now, the applications are flooding in, he said. That means Knaysi can get more quality work for the wage he pays.
“We have a lot more choice, and that’s good for everyone,” he said.
The average of all wages in Colorado was $21.47 an hour last year.
According to the wage list, fast-food and short-order cooks, counter attendants, baristas, dish washers, hosts/hostesses, maids, ushers, people who sew by hand, parking lot attendants, dry cleaners, laundry workers and taxi drivers are some of the jobs that on average offer less than $10 an hour in Colorado.
Child care workers, personal and home care aides, farm workers, cashiers, hotel front-desk clerks, lifeguards, ski patrol workers and shampooers are also in that category.
Colorado is one of 13 states with a minimum wage above the federal level. Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wyoming have minimum wage set below the federal level, and Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina have no minimum wage law.
The other 27 states fall in line with the federal rate.
Wyoming and Georgia are tied for the lowest spot at $5.15 an hour. Washington state has the highest minimum wage, $8.55 an hour.
Whether at 3 cents above the federal minimum wage or one cent below it, Brown Cycles Owner Chris Brown said it doesn’t much matter when even historically low-paying jobs are paying more than $8 an hour.
“It’s a moot point,” Brown said.