Missouri Voters Look for Another Try at Living Wage


Low wage workers in the State of Missouri live under weaker minimum wage laws than other workers in other parts of the country.

But there are some who are working to make a change. Missouri Jobs with Justice has been busy trying to create a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in the state to $12 an hour by 2023. If the initiative passes, there would an 85-cent-a-year raise for five years. Missouri’s minimum wage is currently $7.70 an hour. The federal minimum is $7.25 an hour. The state’s minimum wage hovers slightly above the federal level because of a ballot initiative that passed in 2006 that pushed the minimum wage to a higher level and also provided a cost-of-living adjustment. Missouri Jobs with Justice Policy Director Richard von Glahn talks about the impact of wages on the economy.

“This puts money in consumers’ hands so they can spend it in the economy,” von Glahn said. “This will cycle through the economy before the next increase.”

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009, but workers in various parts of the country are covered by higher minimum wages at the state and city level. St Louis passed a $10 city minimum wage in May but it was overturned by the state legislature a month later and St. Louis employers were allowed to return to the state minimum in August. The city ordinance would have slowly raised the minimum wage to $11 an hour.

“There’s been a complete failure at the federal level as far as any action on this issue for 10 years,” von Glahn said. “There’s also been a complete failure at the state level. When the City of St. Louis and the City of Kansas City were fed up with this failure and took action themselves, the state legislature came in and not just prevented increases from taking place, but in the case of St. Louis actually took money out of workers’ pockets. An increase that went into effect in May, a $10 minimum wage. Then on Aug. 28, it was officially repealed (by the Missouri legislature) and the minimum wage went back to $7.70.”

The repealing of the local minimum wage by the state legislature meant that St. Louis workers took a 23% cut in pay. The City of Kansas City raised its minimum wage in the same time period as St. Louis.

“The driving thing for us and the other groups that are working on this is the fact that a full-time worker in the State of Missouri earns about $300 a week, $16,000 a year,” von Glahn said. “We just do not believe that people who work full-time should live in poverty. That’s exactly what’s happening.”

Von Glahn said one-in-five Missouri workers would be impacted by the issue because one-in-five Missouri workers are making less than $12 an hour; it takes a wage of $15 an hour to purchase respectable housing. Von Glahn said he regularly sees people choosing between rent and medicine.

Von Glahn also said employees of McDonalds, Walmart and Casey’s General Store usually make the lists for employees most likely to draw public assistance in the State of Missouri year after year. He also said taxpayers are subsidizing the profits of some of the wealthiest people in the country.

Jobs with Justice has formed an alliance with the Fight for 15 movement, a movement of low-wage workers in fields like restaurant work, healthcare and retail, on matters like a higher minimum wage in Missouri. The movement is making some impact. Target recently announced it will raise the pay of all of its workers to $15 an hour by 2020.

Jobs with Justice is currently on the streets all over the state collecting signatures in support of a possible referendum. The deadline is the first week of May in 2018. If enough signatures are collected, it will be placed on the November 2018 ballot. Von Glahn said there is currently a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the campaign and that he expected it to come to a conclusion by May. They have to gather five percent of the number of people who voted in the 2016 gubernatorial election in six of eight congressional districts in order to insure geographic diversity.

Jobs with Justice has a staff of 15 people in the State of Missouri. The organization intends to collect 150,000 signatures in the campaign. In order to do this, it must move a large number of people into action collecting the signatures. The staff will coordinate hundreds of people every week who will go to union halls, churches, community groups, door to door in neighborhoods and at festivals as a part of the effort.

Jason Sibert worked for the Suburban Journals in the St. Louis area for over a decade and is currently executive director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis, Mo. Email jasonsibert@hotmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, Febuary 2, 2018


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