Earlier this year, the City Council for Kansas City voted to increase the minimum wage within city limits to $13 an hour. The ordinance was later repealed and replaced with a plea to the Missouri State Legislature for a minimum wage hike. In St. Louis, the city approved an $11 hour minimum wage that would have taken effect if it had been upheld in circuit court. In the past year the two major cities in Missouri have worked to increase the minimum wage for it’s citizens. This has taken place for one simple reason: Missourians need a raise. Below, I will outline why it is imperative that the Missouri Legislature vote to increase the minimum wage, as well as why I praise the local leaders who are working to make this happen.
I am a junior at Mizzou, and work at the University bookstore. Now, for full disclosure, I make ABOVE minimum wage (8.75 an hour). My bills and monthly expenses are as follows:
- Car payment and Insurance: $365
- Rent and Utilities: $390
- Food, gas and other groceries: $125
Just with these three costs, my bills total up to $880 a month. This does not include any other extraneous costs, such as school supplies, textbooks, and day-to-day costs. Now, remember, I make $1.10 above minimum wage. If I wanted to simply pay my bills, without any extra money in my bank account at the end of the month, I would need to work an average of 30 hours a week. Now, 30 hours a week does not seem terrible. However, when you add 15 credit hours for school, hours of volunteering and interning, and the necessary studying needed to maintain good grades, 30 hours of work becomes more and more difficult. And 30 hours a week just barely covers my bills. I have no money to begin a savings account, or any money for emergencies.
The most problematic fact about this? I am lucky. I am lucky that the University pays me $1.10 more than the minimum wage. I am lucky that I only have to take care of myself. I have only one person to feed and one person to clothe. I am lucky that no one in my family is sick or unable to sustain themselves. And I am lucky that sickness or some other unforeseen accident hasn’t kept me from working. However, there are people out there who are not so lucky. There are single mothers who work around the clock to put food on the table and buy school supplies for their kids. There are college students out there who struggle in school because their financial struggles take priority over their studies. For students who aren’t fortunate enough to attend college, obtaining wealth and building a strong financial foundation is nearly impossible with skyrocketing bills and a stagnant wages.
Now, it is obvious that local leaders in St. Louis and Kansas City see this problem. They see the families struggling, and have offered a solution. Both municipalities, through different means, managed to work out a plan to raise the minimum wage. The problem? The Missouri State Legislature is upset that progress is being made at the city level. In the past legislative session, the Legislature voted and passed a measure banning cities from enacting their own minimum wage laws. The proponents of this legislation believed that raising the minimum wage in only parts of the state will move businesses away from the cities and lead to unemployment in the city.
The logic behind this makes sense. It would make sense for businesses to move to places with lower minimum wages. Lower wages means lower overhead cost, which means higher profits. However, the real world results have shown the opposite. New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles have all raised the minimum wage above the state level. And none of the cities have seen massive layoffs and businesses run for the hills. In fact, it can be argued that these cities have thrived with the extra income being pumped into the economy. So the main complaint against city level minimum wage hikes is not true.
The simple truth is this: if the Legislature is not going to allow cities to increase their own minimum wage laws, then the Legislature needs to raise the minimum wage statewide. Personally, I think there is room for compromise between both parties in this issue. Proponents of a wage hike have called for a hike to $15 an hour. This would be almost double the current minimum wage, which would ultimately force struggling small businesses to close. However, at the current $7.65 an hour, minimum wage workers do not make enough money to stimulate the economy in any significant way, making it difficult for small businesses to attract customers who are attracted to the low prices of big businesses. So, lets find a middle ground. Let’s find a minimum wage that simultaneously stimulates the economy while also putting more money in the pockets of workers and businesses. President Obama has suggested a raise to $10.10 an hour for minimum wage workers. This hike seems reasonable, yet also significant enough to help low wage workers. With this hike, consumers would have more money to pay bills, buy essential products, and stimulate the economy with excess spending. However, this hike would be manageable for businesses to meet, and would bring more consumers in who have new disposable income.
The public outcry and need for a wage increase is there. The economic benefit can be seen. Now it is just time for political leaders in Jefferson City to have the backbone necessary to enact this modest wage hike.
I would like to thank the city leaders in Kansas City and St. Louis for working towards a minimum wage hike.