Local business owners say minimum wage increase for 2022 likely won’t affect their workers
Most businesses are already paying over minimum wage to stay competitive amid the labor shortage
When voters passed Amendment 70 in 2016, it effectively raised the minimum wage by $0.90 each year until it reached $12 an hour, which happened in 2020. Since then, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has adjusted the minimum wage each year to account for cost of living.
Right now, the department is collecting public input on the proposed new minimum wage that’s set to take effect Jan. 1, 2022. The department is proposing the new minimum wage be set at $12.56, which is a 24 cent increase from the current $12.32. Public comment will be collected through Nov. 3, and the final rules will be adopted Nov. 11.
For the most part, Summit County business owners say the proposed increase won’t have a large effect on their operations because most are already paying above this set standard.
Daymon Pascual, owner of P4 Window Cleaning in Frisco, said his nine employees are paid on commission but that entry-level wages are usually broken down between $16 and $20 an hour. In his opinion, paying a higher wage is critical due to the county’s unique economy.
“In our area, minimum wage is a silly concept because you couldn’t get anyone to work for minimum wage,” he said. “I think it’s kind of a moot point in Summit County because we have to pay quite a bit more than that to attract anyone. … Minimum wage is important in certain places, but the market will tend to dictate more of what it really needs to be. And in our case, it’s going to be a lot more than that.”
Beth Johnson, co-owner of Mountain Dweller Coffee Roasters in Frisco, said the same thing. She currently has four employees, and entry level pay for them is usually between $20 and $25 an hour, which includes tips. Baseline pay hovers at about $14 an hour. Like Pascual, Johnson said wages are set at this rate to attract and retain staff.
“Just from the start, it was important for us to have a staff that is professional and responsible,” Johnson said. “I understand that it’s not easy living here in the mountains or here in the area that we live in, so I just want to make sure they are well-paid and happy in their work environment.”
Johnson said she’s glad the rate is getting increased. Paige Losey, front-of-the-house manager at Cabin Juice Elevated Eatery & Bar in Breckenridge, said she’s also pleased to see these rates getting a boost.
“I mean, coming from someone who has made minimum wage in the past, I think it’s a good thing,” Losey said. “I don’t really have any negative feelings toward it.”
Losey said there are about 50 employees who work at Cabin Juice and that about 90% of its front-of-the-house staff is paid minimum wage, adding that other means, such as tips, help retain staff.
Losey said the staff pools tips. Various positions are assigned points, and that point system determines how big of a portion of the tips that position will earn. For example, servers and bartenders will get a larger portion since they are in direct contact with the customers. Bussers will get the second largest portion, and hosts receive a small portion, too.
An increasing minimum wage often means businesses will have to dip into their bottom line or raise the price of products to make up for the extra cost, but Johnson said this isn’t a concern of hers. Instead, she’s more worried about how the lack of housing will impact her small business.
“The shortage of housing is still an issue, and that’s the reason I’m in need of more staff,” Johnson said. “I went from seven to four (employees) in just the last month because I did have two employees leave due to housing. They may be able to afford it; there’s just not enough for whatever reason.”
Losey and Pascual also noted that it’s the lack of affordable housing that’s causing the biggest issue for their businesses, not the proposed increase in minimum wages. Losey noted that Cabin Juice doesn’t have housing available for staff like other large-scale companies do, something she said can make it difficult to recruit new hires. And like Johnson, Pascual said he’s lost employees due to housing, even with his higher wages.
“Housing is the toughest thing for people,” Pascual siad. “I’d really emphasize that as probably the biggest issue. I’ve lost good employees because (there’s) just literally nowhere for them to live. Even one of my top admin people lived in Denver and just worked remotely for our company because he couldn’t find anything in Summit County.”
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is currently collecting feedback about the proposed minimum wage increase. It’s hosting a public hearing Nov. 1 and attendees can tune in via Zoom, by phone or in person. For more information, visit CDLE.Colorado.gov/proposed/adopted-rules.
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