Petitions filed for minimum wage hike vote


AURORA | Backers of an effort to boost the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 turned in more than twice the number of signatures required this week, coming one step close to the November ballot.

Protesters — some dressed as the clown Ronald McDonald — picket inside a McDonalds in Denver in this 2013 file photo. Demonstrations were planned as part of a push by labor unions, worker advocacy groups and Democrats to raise the federal minimum wage to $15. Backers of a similar ballot initiative submitted their petition signatures to the state this week. (Ed Andrieski/AP Photo)According to a statement from Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office, proponents of Initiative No. 101 needed to submit 98,492 valid voter signatures — 5 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for Colorado Secretary of State in the last general election — by Aug. 8.

The group turned in more than 200,000 signatures this week.

Lynn Bartels, a spokeswoman for Williams’ office, said the election officials have 30 days to determine whether the backers filed enough valid signatures to make the November ballot.

Lizeth Chacon, co-chair of Colorado Families for a Fair Wage, the group backing the effort, said they initially aimed for 160,000 signatures but easily surpassed that.

“This campaign has been able to create a momentum that we were not expecting,” she said. “Increasing the minimum wage is something that people care a lot about right now.”

Chacon said proponents of the measure hope to raise the minimum wage gradually from $8.31 per hour today to $12 per hour in 2020.

“We know our communities are suffering, folks who are working full time can’t put a plate of food on their table,” she said.

Tyler Sandberg, chairman of Keep Colorado Working, the lead opposition group, said an analysis showed the measure could cost Colorado 90,000 jobs by 2022.

“This measure will do more harm than good,” he said.

Sandberg said the opposition to the measure includes the Aurora Chamber and the Colorado Restaurant Association.

The state’s minimum wage has already climbed 61 percent in 10 years, he said.

And while wealthier parts of the state could weather the wage hike, he said small towns and small businesses would not.

“Another 44-percent increase is simply too far for small businesses and rural communities,” he said.

But Chacon said the measure raises the wage gradually so it shouldn’t be difficult for businesses.

“Having an incremental increase will allow local businesses to adjust to the change but also will provide a relief for our community,” she said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.