DENVER – Proponents of a ballot initiative that would gradually raise the minimum wage in Colorado paid petition workers at least $12 an hour, according to an amended report.
The campaign was accused by opponents of not living up to its own values.
Colorado Families for a Fair Wage provided evidence Wednesday that shows that workers were paid at least $12 an hour, and at times more than $18 an hour, despite claims from opponents that 24 canvassers were paid less than $12 per hour for collecting signatures.
The secretary of state’s office verified that an amended filing was received, which shows that workers were paid at least $12 an hour.
The work of those paid petition gatherers landed the question on the November ballot.
The controversy started after Keep Colorado Working, the opposition campaign, found documents filed with the Secretary of State’s Office that included a list of total wages paid by the Washington, D.C.-based canvassing firm FieldWorks.
The opposition group issued a news release this week that read, “Hypocrisy, thy name is Amendment 70.”
“If the union-led campaign, funded by a million dollars of national labor union money, couldn’t afford to pay their own staff $12 an hour, how do they expect small and family-owned businesses in rural Colorado to afford to?” asked Tyler Sandberg, campaign manager for Keep Colorado Working. “Their one-size-fits-all measure apparently doesn’t even fit their own campaign budget.”
The ballot effort would gradually raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020. The current minimum wage in Colorado is $8.31.
Proponents say when they chose the petition-gathering firm, they inserted language into the contract to ensure that every worker would earn at least $12 an hour. The firm submitted an initial report with “clerical errors” in calculating pay for workers who were working on multiple initiatives, according to proponents and FieldWorks.
FieldWorks on Tuesday submitted an amended report to the secretary of state’s office reflecting that all workers were paid at least $12 an hour.
“Upon a re-review of the previous circulator report, we discovered that wages for some circulators were mis-reported on the report that we pulled from our payroll company,” FieldWorks wrote to the secretary of state’s office. “This is because we had multiple projects in Colorado, and when some staff moved between projects in the middle of a payroll period, their wages were incorrectly applied to one project or another.”
“Every person working on the minimum wage ‘$12 by 2020’ ballot initiative has earned a minimum of $12 an hour and more because it’s crucial that the paychecks of Colorado working families can cover housing, food and other basics,” said Patty Kupfer, campaign manager for Colorado Families for a Fair Wage.
“While our corporate-funded opposition is trying to gin up controversy where there is none, our grassroots supporters are focused on making contact with real life Colorado voters who understand that making ends meet on less than $300 a week is impossible and needs to change this November.”
Opponents, however, remain skeptical, pointing out that the only other initiative FieldWorks was working on was for a proposal to retain excess state revenue, which suspended its efforts on July 19. Presumably, there weren’t multiple campaigns the firm was working on that would have caused the incorrect wage calculations in some cases, say opponents.
“How could the ‘clerical error’ be related to a second petition that literally wasn’t being circulated anymore?” asked opponents.
“Let’s call this what it is – the unions got caught paying their own campaign operatives less than the minimum wage they are trying to force on small businesses across the state,” Sandberg said. “The unions are minimum wage hypocrites. And every small business in Colorado has a right to be angry.”