Democrats Tie Minimum Wage Measures To Clinton Campaign
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now for a different kind of election story - Colorado is one of the key battleground states in this presidential election. And Democrats are hoping to swing this state in their direction by promoting, not just candidate Hillary Clinton, but also Amendment 70. That's a ballot initiative to increase the statewide minimum wage to $12 an hour in four years. Colorado Public Radio's Meredith Turk reports.
MEREDITH TURK, BYLINE: Annette Gonzales lives in Pueblo, Colo., a town two hours south of Denver. She's a retired child care provider. She's sitting in the living room of her home in a government-subsidized housing project. And all around her, her grandchildren and foster children are playing. Gonzales is undecided about the presidential race but knows her mind on closer-to-home issues.
ANNETTE GONZALES: Yeah, I'm more interested in local. I can see the results. It'll affect me and my children and family.
TURK: The issue Gonzalez cares about most is Amendment 70, which would raise the state's wage floor. Nationally, the minimum wage is 7.25 an hour, but voters and lawmakers in 28 states, including Colorado, have raised the wage. In this state, the minimum is 8.31 an hour. Amendment 70 would push it to $12 an hour by 2020. And that would be good money in Pueblo, where the economy struggles. Here, a lot of discouraged workers sit on the sidelines, unable to afford job-related costs like transportation and work clothes.
TURK: And of course, child care. Gonzales says her neighborhood is full of parents who would jump at a job that paid enough to get them out of the house.
GONZALES: Get the kids all out in the morning and to the babysitter, to the schools.
TURK: Gonzales says a little more money could change everything.
GONZALES: It's going to raise their standard of living, give them some pride, enable them maybe to own a vehicle instead of always having to catch a bus.
TURK: Ana Temu says most low-wage workers agree with Gonzales. Temu is state director of Colorado Latinos Rise, a progressive political action committee. She says Amendment 70 will motivate many people of Latino heritage to vote and help Democrats carry the state.
ANA TEMU: They're not going out to the polls specifically to vote for Clinton. They're going out to the polls to make a change for their community, and that's the minimum wage.
TURK: Anti-amendment forces are hoping for the opposite impact. They say small businesses would get crushed by a $12 minimum wage, so they're encouraging voters to turn out against a wage hike. A group called Keep Colorado Working has put together testimonials from small-business owners who oppose Amendment 70. In this ad, a woman named Janelle says she owns a small pottery business.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)
JANELLE: Another 44-percent increase in the minimum wage will be devastating to family businesses like mine. An increase this big means I would have to lay off some of the employees this is supposed to help.
TURK: These same arguments are being heard in three other states where the minimum wage is also on the ballot. In Arizona, Maine on Washington state, supporters are hoping they can win raises and help elect Democrats who overwhelmingly support wage increases. For NPR News, I'm Meredith Turk in Colorado. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.