Colorado Springs Gazette: Point-counterpoint: Should Colorado voters approve Amendment 70, which would raise Colorado's minimum wage?

By Richard Skorman
Colorado Springs Gazette, October 1, 2016

Question: Should Colorado voters approve Amendment 70, which would raise Colorado's minimum wage from $8.31 per hour to $12 per hour by 2020?

Richard Skorman

Opponents of Amendment 70 argue it would hurt small businesses and kill jobs in the state. As small-business owners at Poor Richard's, Little Richard's and Rico's for over 40 years, Patricia (my wife and partner) and I know that's simply not true.

We have been paying our entry-level employees $12 and $13 per hour for seven years now, and our businesses have only grown and become more profitable. In fact, our labor costs have gone down. Why?

Now that we pay a living wage (with benefits), we attract the best employees. They stay with us much longer, and the longer they stay, the better they become at their jobs. It's been our experience that long-term employees can do the work of 11/2 high-turnover employees.

It's also a plus that we spend less money on training new employees. Training is the most expensive labor cost there is, and most employees making $8 per hour will quickly leave for other opportunities with more pay.

Most important, our staff is happier. A happier staff simply means more regular customers. The key to our success and that of most small businesses are regular customers. Regular customers like knowledgeable and, most of all, happy employees.

So I am sure your next question is, "Why don't you pay your employees more and not force others to do it as well? No one is requiring you to pay less." The answer is that we think it would help level the playing field for small businesses like ours.

When we started our restaurant in 1977, there were 20 restaurants downtown. Now there are 60, including many national chains. When we started our bookstore, it was before Amazon and the Kindle; we opened our toy store before Walmart had 20 rows of toys.

Not only can the chains and internet businesses undercut us because they have lower labor costs and higher buying power, but most internet businesses don't charge sales tax as we're required to. Internet customers and national chain customers don't have to pay for parking like ours. When you add it all up, it's not easy for a brick-and-mortar store to compete.

Our main advantage is our experienced and happy sales staff.

Patricia and I aren't alone in our beliefs. More than 8 in 10 small-business owners already pay their employees more than the minimum wage. A UC Berkeley study found that employment rates hardly changed in states and cities that raised the minimum wage because small-business owners experienced lower turnover and higher worker productivity after the raise.

A recent DU study reports that raising Colorado's minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would pump 400 million new dollars into Colorado's economy while having minimal impacts on inflation or employment.

We hope some of that money comes our way because of our experienced and happier staff.

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Copyright 2016 Richard Skorman


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