Democratic leaders endorse effort to raise Missouri minimum wage to $12 an hour
Updated at 4:30 p.m. with details from rally — Several elected officials across Missouri endorsed an effort Monday to raise the state's minimum wage. Their backing came the same day that St. Louis' $10-an-hour minimum wage, in effect since May 5, dropped to $7.70 an hour due to a new state law.
Raise Up Missouri is gathering signatures to put a statewide $12 an hour initiative on the November 2018 ballot, and received endorsements from St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, Kansas City Mayor Sly James and Columbia Mayor Brian Treece — all Democrats.
The Republican-led legislature passed a bill earlier this year requiring all cities to stay at the state's minimum wage; Gov. Eric Greitens allowed it become law without his signature. The law also prevents Kansas City from increasing its minimum wage to $10 an hour next month. Voters had approved that increase on Aug. 8.
Supporters of a higher minimum wage claim 135 employers in St. Louis have signed a pledge saying they will keep their hourly wage at $10, and some businesses are displaying signs to back up their word.
But there are many businesses who won't hold pat.
McDonald's worker Bettie Douglas was making $7.90 before aldermen voted in October 2015 to raise the minimum wage. She expects the reduction to make it difficult to pay her bills.
"I don't know. I might have to go without electric for a minute because I don't have it all right now," she told St. Louis Public Radio. "I live from pay period to pay period."
Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber called the rollback a "cruel attack on the principle that all Missouri workers who wake up every morning ready to work hard deserve to make enough to put food on the table and support their family."
"We should be fighting every day for working families — not cutting their paychecks," Webber said in a statement.
Some restaurant owners and retailers have argued the higher minimum wage put them at a competitive disadvantage, citing recent studies that question whether a higher minimum wage actually helps workers.
At Monday's new conference and rally, Stenger spoke out against the rollback.
"Raising the minimum wage is really about strengthening families. I come from a working family and I know that improving incomes across Missouri will help workers better care for their children and loved ones," Stenger said.
Stenger, Krewson, James and Treece also issued a joint statement that read, in part: "We, as local elected leaders, stand united in the belief that better wages strengthen all communities and will continue to lead the way forward in Missouri. We support the Raise Up Missouri initiative, which would raise the statewide minimum wage via ballot initiative to $12 by 2023."
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