By SHERI GASSAWAY
Correspondent (Article published in Labor Tribune)
A push to raise minimum wage in the City of St. Louis is fueling excitement among community leaders, workers and even business owners.
On Friday, June 5, the St. Louis Board of Alderman introduced a bill that would increase the minimum wage for workers in the city to $15 an hour by 2020. If approved, the minimum wage would immediately jump from $7.65 to $10 an hour, and rate increases would be phased in each year beginning in 2017.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay discussed the critical need for the increase during a news conference June 4 at City Hall. About 150 people attended the event, including representatives from St. Louis Jobs with Justice (JwJ) and Progress Missouri.
“Make no mistake about it – we are going to raise minimum wage in St. Louis,” Mayor Slay said. “It will help thousands of St. Louisans build a better future for themselves, and it will help build an economy that works for everyone.”
CURRENT WAGE ‘NOT ENOUGH’
Twenty-fifth Ward Alderman Shane Cohn, the bill’s sponsor, said anyone who works full-time shouldn’t have to struggle with the basics of housing, food, childcare and education, let alone trying to save any money.
“The current wage of $7.65 is not enough to survive and provides for a substandard quality of life,” Cohn said. “We have to take care of the people who are willing to take care of themselves.”
Ruth Ehresman, co-chair of St. Louis (JwJ) Workers’ Rights Board, thanked Slay and Cohn for their leadership in standing up for workers.
“Jobs with Justice is very excited to be taking these meaningful steps toward raising the minimum wage in St. Louis,” she said.
Workers and a business owner at the news conference shared personal experiences and views on the importance of raising the minimum wage in St. Louis.
Latasha Chapple, a 33-year-old mother of three who works at Wendy’s in St. Louis, said the current minimum wage is not enough to pay the bills and feed her three children even with food stamp assistance.
“Sometimes I have to ask my 16-year-old who also works in the fast food industry to help pay the bills so we can eat,” she said. “We struggle in life.”
Mikey Carrasco, co-owner of Taco Circus, a new business that opened about three months ago in South City. He has four employees and says he pays them in line with what the city is proposing.
“I’m totally cool with the city’s proposed minimum wage increase,” he said. “If I pay my employees more money, then they have more money to spend which helps the overall economy.”
ABOUT THE BILL
The bill would set the minimum wage for employees who work 20 hours a week at $10 as soon as it becomes law. The minimum wage would be increased to $11.25 an hour in 2017, $12.50 an hour in 2018, $13.75 an hour in 2019 and $15 an hour in 2020. The wage increase would apply to all business in the City of St. Louis except those with revenues less than $500,0000 or 15 or fewer employees.
The Missouri legislature recently passed House Bill 722, which prohibits cities from raising the minimum wage above the state level. The bill would go into effect Aug. 28 if Gov. Jay Nixon’s signs it.
Slay said he believes the aldermen will have sufficient time to debate the matter and come to a resolution prior to Aug. 28 even if they have to hold extra meetings.