Efforts have been made in both St. Louis and Kansas City since 2015 toward the increase of the minimum wage. Francis Slay, mayor of St. Louis, did sign the city’s legislation in August of that year. However, many in Kansas City were not satisfied with their City Council as they proposed setting the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 on the ballot last November.
While many felt this was the headway needed to move forward, the courts stepped in and delayed efforts. They announced that the Missouri Constitution prohibits cities from requiring businesses to pay anything higher than what’s set in place in state law. While a Kansas City judge removed the ballot, St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Steven Ohmer ceased the St. Louis law just hours before it was to take effect.
Advancements were made in Kansas City in early 2017 when it was decided by judges that Kansas City efforts must get a vote. However, the potential issue of state law conflicts was not considered. It was decided on February 24 that cities do have the right to require businesses to pay a higher minimum wage.
Of course, there are stakeholders on each side of the debate. Robert Bonney, CEO of Missouri Restaurant Association, challenged the proposal in June 2015, and the Missouri Restaurant Association even spoke out against its advancement in a recent lawsuit. It was their defense that the Missouri minimum wage law authorizes them to pay no more than the minimum. However, Judge Laura Denvir Stith pointed out that minimum wage law “simply sets a floor below which an employee cannot be paid, stating that ‘every employer shall pay to each employee wages at the rate of [the current state minimum wage standard.]”
Proponents of the recent ruling point out that having a job which allows workers to more easily pay their bills and put their children through college provides an added level of dignity that makes them feel more valuable in the workforce.
Slay is providing St. Louis business owners a transitional period to adjust to the increase. The first increase took place in October 2015, and, on January 1, 2017, businesses were asked to pay at least $10 an hour.
Policy director for Missouri Jobs with Justice Richard von Glahn is optimistic, and it’s his hope that businesses do comply with pay rate increases immediately. He has watched workers wait and work hard in anticipation of this increase, and he feels the time has come for them to enjoy the fruits of their labor.