Denver becomes first Colorado city to set its own minimum wage, and disabled people can no longer be excluded from it

Denver becomes first Colorado city to set its own minimum wage, and disabled people can no longer be excluded from it

If you work in Denver, you'll be getting a raise... eventually

CultureDecember 03, 2019 By Will Brendza

On Wednesday, the Mayor of Denver signed a bill into law that will raise the minimum wage of the Mile-High City to a whopping $15.87 an hour.

But not all at once. It’s a raise that Denver will get incrementally.

“This increase to Denver’s minimum wage will provide a little bit of relief for those who are struggling the most – families who must choose between putting food on the table and paying rent or buying medicine,” Mayor Hancock told CBS Denver.

The raise won’t actually reach its full amount until January of 2022 — a full two years after it goes into effect on January 1st of 2020. Which isn’t necessarily going to uplift those struggling families in the short term or immediate future (especially when the cost of living is rising so much faster). But it will indiscriminately help Denver’s disabled residents, who have been getting the short end of the pay-stub for years.

Here’s how the wage increases will go: on January 1st of 2020 minimum wage will increase from $11.10/hour to $12.85. The next year it will go up to $14.77. And finally, in 2022, it will reach $15.87.

It’s a step in the right direction. Clearly this is a bill that’s meant to help people; meant to make the cost of living a little less overwhelming in Denver. Some business owners will complain about having to pay their employees more, sure, but generally this bill is going to have a positive impact on some 90,000 Denver residents who will get a raise as a result.

But, perhaps the most important aspect of this bill is that it forbids employers from paying employees with disabilities less. According to a current provision in Colorado’s Fair Labor Standards Act (Section 14(c)), “employers are permitted to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum wage if their disability impairs their earning or productive capacity.” Meaning disabled individuals can be paid as little as 10-cents/hour for their work.

Yes, you read that correctly: currently in Denver you can pay disabled people next-to-nothing because of their disability. This new bill will make sure everyone gets paid at least the same minimum wage — regardless of any disability.

The problem is, for all of Denver’s other, non-disabled residents, who are simply struggling with the cost of living in that City, a $4.77 raise over two years is hardly enough. The cost of living in Denver is 15-percent higher than in other states; on average, a house in Denver costs 58-percent more than elsewhere in the US; doctors are 21-percent more expensive. Some residents say that raising the minimum wage gradually like this over such a long period of time might not do much to assuage the always-inflating cost of living in the city.

Still, this bill and the idea behind it is, at its core, good. Hopefully it’s going to set a precedent for other similarly-expensive cities that are struggling with ballooning costs of living and stagnant minimum wages.

And for fucksake, hopefully it sets a precedent that no city should allow disabled residents to be paid less just because they are disabled.