Kansas City Mayor Sly James and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay today called for action at the state level on increasing the minimum wage.
The Secretary of State’s office has approved for circulation three statewide initiative petitions to increase Missouri’s minimum wage. The Mayors’ call to action comes at the end of a summer in which both cities worked to implement local ordinances that would have raised the minimum wage beginning today. They championed pay increases for thousands of their cities’ workers as the federal and state government have not addressed the issue.
“Workers in our cities and across the entire state work at one, two, or sometimes even three jobs, but they still cannot earn enough to provide for themselves and their families,” Mayor James said. “This injustice creates a burden on state and city resources and stalls economic activity in Missouri. While we weren’t able to implement a local ordinance to raise the minimum wage in Kansas City, my commitment to pursuing this policy change has not wavered.”
Mayor James began the minimum wage debate on March 31 of this year when he called for an increase during the Kansas City State of the City address. Kansas City’s City Council has passed an ordinance to increase the minimum wage to $13 by 2020, but implementation was halted due to a referendum. Additionally, if House Bill 722 is not overridden, a special election on November 3 will be called for voters to decide on a phased-in minimum wage increase of $15 by 2020. Mayor Slay agreed that the time has come for a minimum wage increase.
“I believe that the arguments for raising the minimum wage in the state’s largest cities are also compelling for the entire state, ” Mayor Slay said. “A living wage rewards work and alleviates taxpayers from the burden generated by employers who pay too little and whose employees must rely on government subsidies to fill the gaps created by the current minimum wage. Not only would a higher minimum wage benefit employers of our cities by attracting the best workforces, but also I believe that a higher statewide minimum wage would help Missouri attract the best workers in the region.”
On August 28, 2015, Mayor Slay signed a bill passed by the Board of Aldermen into law, which phases in an $11 an hour minimum wage increase in the City of St. Louis by 2018. This follows Mayor Slay’s response to President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address in January when the Mayor amended the City’s compensation regulation to ensure that all St. Louis City government employees receive a minimum of $10.10 an hour.
The Missouri General Assembly set an August 28th deadline for cities to be able to get local legislation on the books to enact a higher minimum wage, which is why both leaders pushed to get the wage increased now to help fellow citizens. Next month, the state legislature will consider overriding Governor Nixon’s veto of House Bill 722, which would interfere with local decisions on worker wages, employee benefit policies, and limits on plastic bags at grocery stores.
Both mayors hope that business leaders who were concerned about individual cities enacting higher minimum wages will strongly support a statewide increase in the minimum wage.