Overworked and under-appreciated

  Durango, in southern Colorado, has become a mountain biking mecca and popular stop on the Southwest tourist loop. But can you make a living there? For both newcomers and old-timers working in the town's restaurants, bars and shops, the answer is "barely," according to a report by two nonprofit groups, Grassroots First and the San Juan Citizens Alliance. "If I didn't get child support I could never make it in Durango," said a woman who has worked in the town's restaurants for almost 20 years. The report, based on 150 interviews, placed most service workers in the "very low income" bracket, and found that few receive any benefits. Meanwhile, rent prices have skyrocketed. The report recommends publishing a consumer's guide to promote responsible businesses, and enlisting local government to give preference in contracts to businesses that pay adequate wages. It also suggests that organizing would increase workers' bargaining power. Dan Randolph, who helped with the project, hopes that the report will start a community dialogue about improving working conditions. For more information or a copy of the six-page report, Working in Durango, Colorado, contact the Western Colorado Congress at P.O. Box 2461, Durango, CO 81302, or call 970/259-3583.