Guest opinion: It’s past time to act on minimum wage in Boulder

Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023

By Geof Cahoon

Boulder Beat readers had a lot of Thoughts on city council’s recent vote to wait until 2025 to raise the local minimum wage. If you’ve got something to add to the conversation, let us know:

The local minimum wage has been a point of discussion across Boulder County since 2019. In September 2022, the Boulder County Consortium of Cities formed a Local Wage Study Team where they developed a timeline for a minimum wage to go into effect in January 2024. The Local Wage Study Team invited the business community to a meeting with local elected officials. In April 2023, advocates invited local elected officials to hear from impacted workers, community leaders and policy experts.

Despite the fact that this has been a topic of discussion over the last four years, monied interests continue to levy delay tactics to prevent a minimum wage increase from happening at all. Meanwhile, over the last four years, members of our community have struggled to make ends meet as evidenced by the growing number of food-pantry visits, rising family homelessness, and an unprecedented level of inflation.

During a study session on Thursday, August 24, Boulder City Council members discussed whether to implement a minimum wage increase of $15.70 beginning on January 1, 2024. This was an opportunity for the City of Boulder to join Boulder County Commissioners — who recently announced their commitment to increasing the minimum wage in unincorporated parts of the County. Instead, in a 5-4 vote, members of Boulder City Council voted against working families and in favor of yet another year-long delay.

This comes after years of campaign-trail promises to raise the minimum wage. During candidate forums in 2021, several council members — including Tara Winer, Mark Wallach and Matt Benjamin — stated their support of raising the minimum wage to at least $15/hr. More recently, during a June candidate forum, Council members Bob Yates and Winer shared their support of increasing the minimum wage to at least $17.29 an hour.

Thursday’s decision is especially disappointing given the previous statements made by these elected leaders. Kicking this process down the line hurts working families who are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living in the City of Boulder. Getting an initial minimum wage increase off the ground sooner rather than later is the first step for cities to pursue a gradual wage target that allows working people and working families to be better supported to make ends meet.

For years, community members have been calling on local governments to act now to implement a local minimum wage to address the fact that Boulder County has one of the highest costs of living in the state. Local minimum wage laws are designed to address this.

For the last four years, elected leaders have failed to take action to put something in place. The time to act is now. We need to hold Boulder City Council members accountable to their past campaign promises by electing leaders who will really follow through on enacting a self sustaining minimum wage.

Want to engage more on this? Attend an Oct. 12 town hall on the issue in Niwot (5:30 p.m., Left Hand Grange, 195 2nd Ave) or the county commissioners’ planned public hearing and vote on Nov. 2. Learn more.

Geof Cahoon is president of the Boulder Area Labor Council, CLC, AFL-CIO, which is advocating for higher minimum wages. 


Boulder Beat Opinion Panel members are writing in their own capacity. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of Boulder Beat.

Got a different take? Write a Guest Opinion using our op-ed and comment guidelines or submit an application to join the Opinion Panel.

Elections Opinion

Elections Opinion

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Geof: I just don’t understand why we need to raise the minimum wage in Boulder. There is a “help wanted” sign up at every business I go to. And none of them are paying minimum wage . They are all $16-$22 per/hr….many like Whole Foods , Target, Trader Joes etc are offering benefits. It’s a total waste of time and money to politicize this. You are way off the mark. If you want I’ll come pick you up and we can walk into these businesses and apply for jobs and see exactly what they are offering. Who pays minimum wage anymore? You can’t get an employee for that price!! Your argument has no merit and is basing itself on a total lack of knowledge as to what the market really is. Let’s go Geof….you and I will apply for jobs and see what the market is actually telling us.

  2. Wow. Paul Baryames. I’ve never read a more ignorant statement in my life.
    You are woefully under educated about this massive issue.

    All shops and stores have help wanted signs because of high turn over, companies do not support their employees anymore.
    Companies and stores will refuse to allow anyone full time in order to avoid giving them benefits.
    The prices you see are what “COULD” be offered but never given.
    Sure, maybe if you work at a place for a couple years you have the potential to make that price, but its never ever a starting price.

    Why dont you spend a couple months, just go to various job interviews dressed as an average person and see what its like. You most likely wont even get a reply back from most of the places you try for.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: