Alms for the Poor (Colorado Amendment 42)
Well, the fact of a minimum wage has been settled in the country since 1938. It was put in place to provide workers during the Great Depression with a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. It guaranteed $0.25 per hour to those covered. As President Roosevelt said, it was "legislation to end starvation wages and intolerable hours".
So, if you accept the fact that there is a minimum wage and that its purpose is to end starvation wages, then it seems clear that the minimum wage needs to be tied in some way to cost of living.
In fact, Colorado Amendment 42 does just that. It would set the minimum wage in this state to $6.85 per hour, an increase of $1.70 over the federally mandated $5.15. It also increases that rate each year based on inflation. This is something our federal government has been unable to do, and now we have to opportunity to make it happen here.
Have I finally found the amendment I'm willing to vote for?
Well, no. People who use the initiative process to put things onto our ballot like turning them into constitutional amendments. This is because it prevents the legislature from messing with them, and maybe helps avoid some nasty conflicts with other laws that are merely statutes.
Unfortunately, this leads to writing nitty gritty details into our guiding document that often cause unintended consequences. For example, the voters in this state have approved constitutional amendments that force spending cuts across the board as well as mandating specific increases. We have to stop doing this.
That is why, although I support this issue, I will be voting against Amendment 42. What happens if Congress gets some courage and changes how the federal minimum wage is calculated? What if the economy drastically changes? Our hard-to-change constitution should not include wage dollar figures, specific formulas for increases, or how much to pay workers who get tips compared to those who don't.
At the federal level, we need to reframe the argument. Either the folks who are opposed to the minimum wage need to convince us that it should be repealed, or we need to raise it to a fair level and ensure that it stays at a fair level, rather than being a hostage to politics.
In the meantime, vote NO on Amendment 42.