It might seem like the Colorado economy is thriving because of low unemployment, but the economy is still failing to benefit all Coloradans. Despite the narrative of economic prosperity, most Colorado workers continue to face economic hardships because their median hourly wages have hardly changed in years despite rapidly increasing rents and costs of living.
The Colorado median hourly wage was $18.92 in 2016. When adjusted for inflation, the median hourly wage in 2016 was $0.78 lower than in 2007. And after inflation adjustments, the median hourly wage in 2016 was 2% lower than the year 2000! This is unacceptable, especially considering the economic progress our state has made and the boom-times that many corporations in our area are experiencing. Our economic growth should benefit everyone—especially the workers at the foundation of our progress. With wages stagnant, the economy simply isn’t performing for working families. The Denver Post Editorial Board summed it up: “…the American system is failing to live up to a basic promise to its workers.”
Wage inequality makes it even harder for working Coloradans to feel like this promise has been kept. Higher wages and the benefits of a booming economy are often clustered in the hands of the wealthy few. According to The Denver Post, the top 20% of wage earners have seen a 6.3% increase in wages since 2000 and the top 10% of earners have seen a 12.2% increase in wages. The vast majority of working people in Colorado have not experienced these gains—their median wages were higher in 2000 than in 2016.
The inequality between company executives and most working Coloradans is even worse. CEO pay ratios released this year for the first time revealed that “…it takes just three workdays, on average, for the CEO of a public company in Colorado to earn as much money as the typical worker at the same firm does in an entire year.” Increasing the wages of hardworking Coloradans must be a priority, especially because “…the gains are long delayed and nowhere near enough to keep up with rising living costs.”
In the face of stagnated wages, economic inequality, and rising costs of living, it’s more important than ever that our elected officials pledge their commitment to supporting Colorado working families by supporting the seven pillars of the Working People’s Platform:
- The freedom to form a union without interference or fear of retaliation
- Higher wages
- Racial justice
- Immigrant justice
- Affordable, quality healthcare
- Affordable housing
- A clean environment