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Final proposal submitted to City Council to raise Denver's minimum wage

The revised proposal followed outreach and feedback. It would raise the minimum wage incrementally to $15.87 per hour by Jan. 1, 2022.
Credit: 9News


Mayor Michael Hancock and Councilwoman Robin Kniech on Monday submitted the final proposal to Denver City Council to raise the citywide minimum wage to $12.85 starting Jan. 1, 2020.

The revised proposal addresses wage inequality and the cost of living affordability through a raise for 90,000 workers and by also giving employers three incremental steps to eventually transition to $15.87 per hour, according to the mayor's office.   

“One of our most important values is not just creating an economy where businesses can succeed, but where people can succeed,” Hancock said. “An economy that works for everyone, where everyone has access to a home, a job and a future.”

The Colorado Restaurant Association had raised concerns in September about how a higher minimum wage could increase the cost of menu items, and President and CEO Sonia Riggs said there were other consequences as well.

“The restaurant industry is facing a crisis already," Riggs said. "The earnings gap between the front of the house and the back of the house is already significant. Anytime we see a minimum wage increase, that gap widens.”

Tipped workers, like servers and bartenders, have a minimum wage that’s about $3 less than all other employees because they also earn tips. Riggs said they make between $20 and $40 an hour right now.

She said most back-of-house employees, including cooks and dishwashers, already make the minimum $15 an hour that Denver is considering. So they wouldn’t get a raise under the proposal.

Riggs said she hoped the city would listen to all stakeholders, including some restaurants who wanted the minimum wage increase to happen gradually.

The mayor's office said it conducted six weeks of outreach to gather feedback on the initial proposal from surrounding local governments, large and small businesses, businesses that employ tipped workers, nonprofits and many other local establishments.

Residents who offered feedback on the initial proposal stated they felt they were working hard but still unable to make ends meet, and that a minimum wage increase was urgent. 

Kniech also said that steps would be made on the revised proposal to help locally owned small businesses better prepare and adapt to higher wages by spreading the proposal out over an additional year.

The ordinance originally proposed in September sought to increase Denver’s minimum wage to $13.80 an hour on Jan. 1, $15.87 on Jan. 1, 2021, and then rise according to the Consumer Price Index each year after that.

With the feedback, Hancock and Kniech’s final proposal established this plan for Denver’s minimum wage:

  • $12.85 an hour on Jan. 1, 2020.

  • $14.77 an hour on Jan. 1, 2021.

  • $15.87 an hour on Jan. 1, 2022. 

  • Annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index each year thereafter.

Tentative legislative schedule for the minimum wage increase proposal:

  • Nov. 5: Proposal will be discussed as an informational item with public comment at Finance and Governance Committee.

  • Nov. 12: Proposal will appear again as an action item with public comment at Finance and Governance Committee.

  • Nov. 18: First reading at City Council.

  • Nov. 25: Second reading at City Council with a one hour courtesy public hearing.

The proposal is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Flynn, Gilmore, Hinds, Ortega and Torres.