The Aurora City Council turned down a watered-down minimum wage increase during a virtual meeting early Tuesday morning.
Community members turned out in droves for the meeting, discussing a proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage to $17 by 2025.
The proposal, led by council members Alison Coombs and Juan Marcano, would have raised Aurora’s current $12 minimum wage incrementally, reaching $12.60 in 2021, $13.23 in 2022, $14.55 in 2023, $16 in 2024 and $17 in 2025.
Coombs and Marcano revised their previous plan to raise the wage to $20 by 2027 after a majority of lawmakers voted against the effort.
Mayor Mike Coffman broke a tie on the council to defeat the proposal. Council members Curtis Gardner, Angela Lawson, Marsha Berzins, Dave Gruber and Francoise Bergan voted against the plan.
The meeting, which lasted until 1 a.m., took calls from community members for nearly three hours in which they were relatively evenly split between support and opposition for the proposal.
Aurora resident Dani Perea spoke of working three jobs as a high school teacher, bartender and bakery worker to get by. She said some days, the garnishes she took from the bar top would be the only food she ate all day.
Perea supported the measure, saying anyone who works full time deserves to be able to survive.
“(Seventeen dollars) by 2025 is a baby step towards the great vision of Aurora that I know you all have,” Perea said. “One thing you can do to make a better life in Aurora … is to increase the minimum wage.”
Several callers pointed to the consistently rising housing costs in Aurora in support of increasing the wage. They also pointed out that marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ community and people of color disproportionately work minimum waged jobs.
On the opposition, many claimed it was bad timing to raise the minimum wage since small businesses are struggling financially from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The majority of business owners who called Monday were in opposition of the proposal.
“A mandated minimum wage of this amount will put us out of business,” said Tish Gardener, a small business owner in Aurora.
“We are the working class. … We pay our workers as much as they can pay them and they understand that. They do not want us to go out of business, they want a job.”
Multiple callers said they believe small businesses would move to surrounding cities if Aurora’s minimum wage was increased.
However, several business owners also called to express their support for the increase, saying their employees deserve to be paid more.
Business owner Caroline Pace said she starts employees at $20 per hour. She said she supports raising the city’s minimum wage and that businesses shouldn’t be able to choose whether or not to pay a living wage.
“(The proposal) will support the right kind of businesses,” Pace said. “The local businesses that want to do right.”