COEUR d'ALENE - Voters in Coeur d'Alene may decide if the city should boost the minimum wage.
On Friday, a group - spearheaded by former legislative candidate Anne Nesse and Bob Bennett, former North Idaho College president - submitted a draft initiative to City Clerk Renata McLeod. If the group obtains the necessary 1,681 signatures from registered voters in Coeur d'Alene, residents will vote on the initiative on Nov. 3.
"I believe this is a human rights issue," Nesse said. "Most people want to earn their food. They don't want to be embarrassed and have to beg to the federal government."
If passed, the initiative would require employers in the city of Coeur d'Alene to pay their employees at least $8.75 an hour beginning Jan. 1, 2016. The current minimum wage is $7.25.
Tipped workers, such as waiters and bartenders, would earn 75 percent of the wages that hourly employees receive, which doubles the $3.35 minimum at the state level.
Minimum wages would then be increased to $10.25 an hour the following year, and the initiative includes language for additional, annual raises based on the Consumer Price Index for the western region.
"Our saying is that 'It's good for people, good for business,'" Nesse said. "It makes everybody more successful. You cannot start a business without customers and you're never going to sell anything without customers. This initiative creates customers."
The Idaho Legislature last passed a minimum wage increase in 2007, which ran in conjunction with a spending bill signed into law by President George W. Bush. Over the course of three years, the state's minimum wage was incrementally raised to the current rate of $7.25 an hour.
"$7.25 tells you that hard work gets you nothing," Nesse said. "Idaho values should be that when you work hard, put in a good day's work, you should at least be able to survive."
McLeod said city officials have 20 days to complete a legal review of the language in the initiative. Once the review is completed, the group is able to make any necessary or recommended adjustments before re-submitting the document to the city.
City officials then have a 10-day window to deem the initiative ready, which then launches a two-month countdown for the group to obtain the necessary number of signatures.
Nesse said the group plans on beginning a signature drive in June, and asked anyone willing to help in those efforts to contact her through the website www.raiseidaho.org.
"I'll need all the help I can get and I would love to get everyone in the city involved," Nesse said. "I already have some young people on board that still want to be able to work their way through school and they cannot work their way through school without debt. It's very hard for someone to work themselves up at $7.25 an hour, or $3.35 for waitresses."