By: John Spina
As communities around the country debate how to ensure a living wage in the face of ever-rising costs of living, Terrapin Care Station, a Boulder-based cannabis company with stores in Colorado and Pennsylvania, announced this week it’s paying all 270 employees at least $15 an hour.
Any employee making between $15 and $20 also got a dollar raise.
“It was a pretty easy decision, honestly,” said Chris Woods, owner and chief executive of Terrapin Care Station. “Raising the minimum wage company wide isn’t going to solve all of the problems associated with the skyrocketing cost of living we’re seeing, but it’s an important tool to provide some comfort for people as they struggle to make ends meet. Plus, happy employees that can afford to live are good employees, so it’s also a good investment in our organization.”
According to the living wage calculator created by Amy Glasmeier, a professor of economic geography and regional planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an individual must make $14.83 an hour to afford to live in Boulder County. That doubles to $29.30 if the individual has a child.
After the passage of House Bill 1210, which repealed the prohibition on local governments establishing minimum wage laws within its jurisdiction, the Denver City Council began considering a citywide minimum wage of $15. While the City of Boulder raised the minimum wage for all city workers to $15.67 an hour in 2017, it has yet to discuss a city-wide increase — a move the Boulder Chamber of Commerce praised in light of the statewide minimum wage scheduled to reach $12 an hour by 2020.
“We need to maintain a strong middle-class workforce,” said John Tayer, president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. “But now is not the time to move on the initiative. We should understand the potential impact of the mandated minimum wage increases.”
For Luis Cendon, a ‘budtender’ at Terrapin Care Station who immigrated to Colorado in 2015 after securing political asylum from Venezuela, the $3 raise allows him to only work one job and spend his nights studying to become an English translator.
“I struggled as a cook in the area after I unsuccessfully applied for jobs all over Boulder,” he said. “My goal in this country is to be a translator. While I’ll still need a roommate, $15 an hour will help me to budget better with more flexibility, which will help me to achieve my goals in this country.”
Peter Marcus, a spokesman for Terrapin Care Station, noted the decision to grantee a $15 hourly wage was made even though many of the retail workers receive tips similar to waiters or bartenders.
“It’s going to come at a cost to us as a company,” he said. “We had to sit down with our chief financial officer and CEO, but we found ways to absorb it. Obviously, we’re also hopeful that it will help us retain employees and create a greater sense of institutional knowledge at the company.”
Deina Elliott, the store manager at 1795 Folsom St, one of six Terrapin Care Station locations in Colorado, said she immediately saw a difference with her employees and believes it will help the company stay competitive in the labor market.
“Everyone’s more upbeat and positive and just energized to be here,” she said. “Finding people who want to work in the industry was difficult when you can only offer them $12 an hour. So this is game-changing.”
Pete Turner, who founded the Boulder based Illegal Pete’s franchise, saw similar results when he instituted a $15 minimum wage in 2018.