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The Great Minimum Wage Debate Continues

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An open letter to Eater urges Coloradoans to vote NO

Magellan Strategies

As voting ballots are just about to get mailed to Coloradoans and election day is approaching, the debate over certain issues continues to heat up. One of the hottest topics among small business owners in general and restaurant owners in particular is Amendment 70, which would increase the minimum wage incrementally over a period of four years when it would reach $12 per hour, from the current $8.31. Last week, we published a call from Edwin Zoe, owner of Zoe Ma Ma, urging readers to vote in favor of the measure.

The counterpoint to Zoe's opinion comes from Karen Kristopiet-Parker and Tim Bell, owners of The Fresh Fish Company. They urge voters to vote no and give this reasoning:

I read Mr. Zoe’s FB Post regarding his opinion on Amendment 70, the initiative to raise the Colorado minimum wage, which was published by Eater.com.

I respect Mr. Zoe’s opinion, but I have a different opinion. I support raising wages, and I have done so for most of my employees at my restaurant. I believe employees should be given increases based on productivity, work habits, merit and customer satisfaction. I want to retain my right to decide which of my employees deserve increases and how much the increases should be. And I want to make these choices voluntarily, just like the choice Mr. Zoe made to eliminate tipping and add a surcharge. I fully respect his right to do so. But his business model is different than mine. Mr. Zoe owns a restaurant where the increase in wages for tipped employees will not affect his payroll costs or profitability like it will mine. I run a restaurant with 45 tipped employees, where tipping is encouraged and expected.

My thoughts on Amendment 70 are:

1. I don’t have a problem with a $12 minimum wage for non-tipped employees. I’m already paying my non-tipped workers at that level or above.

2. I do have a problem with how the increase of $3.69 per hour ($5.29 now, to $8.98 in 2020 – a 70% increase!) for my tipped employees will affect the wages, salaries and employee benefits of my non-tipped employees. Other than my managers, my tipped employees are already the highest paid workers I have. This amendment will force me to pay my highest paid employees even more, leaving me less money to pay the workers that the amendment supposedly proposes to help.

3. My servers love being tipped by the people they serve because they make tips based on their hard work. They have a direct, personal impact on their own compensation. If I have to raise prices to pay for a wage increase for tipped employees, they get a double dip since their tips are based on a percentage of their sales. This will create an even deeper economic division between the tipped staff and the kitchen staff.

4. And most importantly, I am very worried about where I’m going find the $2,800 more per week to pay for a $3.69 per hour increase for my 45 tipped employees. That’s $140,000 more per year in payroll! My profit margin is already very low, and in some months we lose money, so it can’t come out of profits. Amendment 70 will force me to raise my prices and cut hours or jobs or benefits, or most likely all of the above, just to stay in business. I don’t want to fire good employees to keep my business open. And I am worried that my customers will decide my prices are too high and start eating their meals at home.

Again, I support raising wages – But I’m going to vote "NO" on Amendment 70 because I want to retain my flexibility to raise wages for my employees who earn increases. And I want to stay in business.

Amendment 70 will result in higher prices, less service and fewer entry-level jobs. If you support your local independent restaurant, you should definitely Vote "NO" on Amendment 70!!!

You can read more about this issue at the "Keep Colorado Working" website: www.keepcoloradoworking.com.

Karen Kristopiet-Parker

Tim Bell

Owners

The Fresh Fish Company

Denver

What do you think about Amendment 70?

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