St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is announcing today a bill that will raise the city’s minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour for those who work for the city’s larger employers.
The plan would steadily raise wages by $1.25 an hour per year until 2020. However, small businesses that gross less than $500,000 annually or have fewer than 15 employees would be exempt.
The state’s second-largest city is on its way to join others across the nation, such as Los Angeles and the District of Columbia, that have set their wages higher than the federal minimum wage. The federal minimum wage stands at a mere $7.25 - not nearly enough for anyone to live on.
Via his personal Twitter account, the mayor addressed the need for the plan: “The discussion about a local increase of a minimum wage has been positive: how we best make this work. Read the bill. The legislative process is just beginning. There is opportunity to address concerns. Bottom line, though: the city and the region must make it possible for full-time workers to live, raise families.”
The city’s clock is ticking, however. Missouri’s Republican-led state legislature passed a bill last month that prohibits cities from adopting various local ordinances, including increases in the minimum wage. Cities must raise their wages by August 28, before the bill takes effect.
Missouri’s Republicans must be threatened by the evidence that a living wage is overdue and necessary. According to the Economic Policy Institute and the National Employment Law Project, “the minimum wage in 2014 was 24 percent below its 1968 level despite the fact that U.S. productivity more than doubled over that period.”
These same Republicans are also threatened by the legislative support raising wages has gained. In fact, 29 states and the District of Columbia, as well as 21 cities and counties, have recently set their minimum wages above the “inadequate federal rate of $7.25,” according to the same EPI and NELP report.
One of the states trying to also get on board is New York. Last month, New York governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a wage increase for fast-food workers in the state.
In his New York Times opinion piece, Cuomo detailed how in fact raising wages boosts our economy. “More than 600 economists, including seven Nobel Prize laureates, have affirmed the growing consensus that raising wages for the lowest-paid workers doesn’t hurt the economy. In fact, by increasing consumer spending and creating jobs, it helps the economy. Studies have shown that every dollar increase for a minimum-wage worker results in $2,800 in new consumer spending by household,” wrote Cuomo.
According to the National Employment Law Project, fast-food employment in the state has grown “57 percent between the years 2000 and 2014. Private sector jobs overall grew 7 percent during the same period.” In New York City, fast-food employment” grew even faster—at the rate of 87 percent, to almost double its level 15 years ago.”
Raising the minimum wage is common sense if we want to have a thriving middle class and a strengthened economy. EPI and NELP have both outlined who will benefit from a wage increase - in short, over 35 million Americans.
Mayor Slate stands behind his plan with confidence. “Make no mistake about it. We are raising the minimum in STL. There are arguments against a minimum wage and a higher minimum. They are not as good as the arguments in favor,” he said.