Minimum Wage
3:51 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Group Presents Minimum Wage Petitions To Sen. Blunt's Office

Raising the minimum wage would be a big help for people like Shnette Hooker, an employee at a McDonald’s in Spanish Lake. Hooker said, it would allow people “to save a little money,” “take care of their kids” and “get off the assistance that everybody is on.” 

Shnette Hooker (L) talks with Allison Dreith of the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition in Clayton. The two dropped off petitions to Sen. Roy Blunt's office in Clayton in favor of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

But more than just that, Hooker said boosting the minimum wage is a matter of fairness.

“The CEOs sit behind a desk and push a pen and tell people what to do,” Hooker said. “And the managers give orders. And approximately every now and then, they’ll help us. But they just basically give orders and we do all the work. So we deserve $15. Right now, we’ll just take the $10.10.”

Hooker joined members of the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition to deliver petitions to U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s office in Clayton. Among other things, the petitions are meant to  show support for President Barack Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. 

Allison Dreith, the St. Louis organizer for the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition, says her group is joining other progressive-minded organizations in 13 states in delivering the petitions on the issues. All the groups are affiliated with the Washington D.C.-based US Action.

“It’s not something that our working families in Missouri can wait for any longer with cuts to SNAP  (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) over the last year and to unemployment insurance,” Dreith said. “This is something that will keep hard working families off of those government assistance programs.”

It took about five minutes for the small group to drop the petitions off at Blunt's office. And the interaction between the minimum wage supporters and Blunt's staff was friendly and polite.

But it's unlikely the petitions will change Blunt's mind on the issue. 

In a statement sent to St. Louis Public Radio, Blunt said that “this administration’s policies have created an inequality crisis of opportunity in America, and those policies have been disproportionately hurtful to the poorest among us.” He then pointed to a report from the Congressional Budget Office which found that increasing the minimum wage could ultimately cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. (Click here to read that report, which faced pushback from supporters of the raising the minimum wage.)

“I hope the president will work together with Republicans to pass bipartisan solutions that encourage the creation of good-paying, full-time jobs and help increase economic opportunity nationwide,” Blunt said.

As of now, the prognosis looks grim for any minimum wage increase to get through Congress. For one thing, increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour will need 60 votes to break a filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Getting all those votes will be especially challenging because some Democrats – such as Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas – don’t support raising the minimum wage to that amount.)

Even if it makes it past the Senate, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pledged not to bring the issue up for a vote.

Things aren’t looking any better in Missouri, where the state minimum wage is a little bit higher -- $7.35 an hour -- than the federal one. It’s highly unlikely bills increasing the minimum wage will make it through the GOP-controlled Missouri General Assembly. And time is running short to turn in the necessary signatures to bring the issue for a public vote.

For her part, Allison Dreith would like to see wages raised on a national level.

“It hasn’t happened in so long that it’s not keeping up with the rate of inflation,” Dreith said. “But I know there are a lot of people working hard -- such as our Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) in the Missouri legislature as well -- to raise the minimum wage. Unfortunately, I think we live in a state where we have to attack these kinds of issues from all sides. And we’ll keep on doing so.”

For her part, Shnette Hooker is optimistic. She says she’s “110 percent certain” that a minimum wage increase will occur.

“I think that raising the minimum wage would be helpful to me and a lot of other people,” Hooker said. “First of all, it would take a lot of other people off of the assistance that they get because they’ll making more money to support their child or their children. And be able to live comfortably without have to go from paycheck to paycheck.”