Pearl Adams said her current minimum-wage job providing home care to the elderly barely allows her to pay for food and rent.
"Many nights I had to starve so I can give my husband something to eat," Adams said of her 78-year-old husband.
Adams, along with 100 members and supporters of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, delivered to the secretary of state 130,017 voter signatures in a bid to raise the minimum wage in Colorado to $6.85 from $5.15.
The secretary of state will verify signatures collected by the group to determine if the issue makes it to November ballot. A citizens' initiative needs 67,829 valid signatures to be put before the voters.
Bill Vandenberg, director for the Colorado Progressive Coalition, said that increasing the minimum wage will impact about 138,000 employees and their families.
He said members of Congress have given themselves nine pay raises in recent years while Colorado's lowest-paid workers have continued to receive the federal minimum wage of $5.15 since 1997.
"Hard work deserves fair wages," he said.
After gathering at the state Capitol, supporters wearing red T-shirts proclaiming "Coloradans for a Fair Minimum Wage" marched to the secretary of state's office. They chanted "Hard work deserves fair wages," and "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido," which means the people united will never be defeated.
Carrying a box with petitions, Dara Burwell, of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, said a person working for minimum wage earns about $11,000 per year.
"Child care in this country costs about $6,000 to $10,000 per year. You can't live on minimum wage," she said.
Tamra Ward, vice president for public affairs with the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said it is against raising the minimum wage. In the chamber's view, such a move would take away businesses' flexibility to determine an employee's wages based on the economy.
"That flexibility is part of a good business practice," Ward said. "The majority of businesses already pay above the minimum wage. So that is just a moot point."
Groups seeking spot on November ballot
• What is it: A petition to ask state voters to raise the minimum wage in Colorado to $6.85 from $5.15.
• What's next: The secretary of state will verify the 130,017 petition signatures. If at least 67,829 are valid, the issue will be put to the state's voters.