On Minimum Wage Increase – Shortcuts Lead to Dead-ends

As a kid, growing up at 44th and Montgall, I watched my father work hard to provide for our family. He and my mother often held as many as four jobs between them in order to send my brothers and me to Catholic school. He was a janitor, a chef, a small business owner, and a Marine. My mother did seasonal work as a key punch operator.

My family’s story is fundamental to who I am, but it is not unique.

Today, I can recognize my family’s story in the anxiety and long hours of families across our city, doing all they can to get by.

Empowering working families is personal for me.

That’s why, this Thursday, I will introduce a resolution calling for support of a statewide initiative petition to amend state statute and raise the minimum wage in Missouri.

For the last two years, my office has worked with local labor leaders, community, and faith organizations in order to find an effective and meaningful way to amend state law and raise the minimum wage by statewide initiative petition. In my mind it’s not enough to simply advocate, we have to build coalitions around policies that actually help people make ends meet.

Last year, I began meeting regularly with mayors from across the state. Our meetings are an effort to better understand the needs and challenges among urban and rural communities. I believe a minimum wage increase is something that can have broad support in both urban and rural communities across Missouri.

Increasing the minimum wage in Kansas City has been a journey that began in 2015. I was proud to vote for a minimum wage increase in 2015 when I supported ordinance 150217. This ordinance was the result of open debate, compromise, and most importantly – we believed it was the right thing for Kansas City. However, the ordinance was immediately subjected to a referendum, and repealed.

Two years later – the effort to give deserving men and women a raise has encountered: One law passed by the state legislature prohibiting cities from increasing their minimum wage, one referendum, one initiative petition, two court cases and finally – this week – a new bill introduced in Jefferson City that would strip any right of our city, or any Missouri city, to increase their minimum wage.

It’s become apparent: The only feasible solution available to us is to take this to a statewide vote and remove legislative obstruction, ensuring Kansas City, and all Missourians, can vote to raise their wage.

Missouri workers deserve a raise. Families deserve security. And It’s time to put politics aside.

Growing up, I learned another lesson from my dad: Short cuts lead to dead ends.

The fact of the matter is, any effort to increase minimum wage by any means other than a statewide initiative petition, is a dead end.

Improving the lives of working families is smart for our economy and good for our city. I am committed to seeing Kansas Citians get the raise they deserve. But after nearly two and a half years of dead ends, it’s time to stop looking for shortcuts.

Our city has exhausted all options, except this one.

I believe a statewide initiative petition to finally raise the minimum wage is the right thing to do.

When we invest in the success of working people, we make the middle class stronger. And when we empower the middle class in our city and state, we succeed. Let’s work together for the parents, families, friends and neighbors across our city who have earned their raise.

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