By TIM ROWDEN
The Missouri Legislature and Gov. Eric Greitens’ heartless rollback of St. Louis’ $10/hour minimum wage took effect last month, but local elected officials, business owners and workers’ advocates are hoping to override state lawmakers at the ballot box.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger joined activists, workers and Democratic legislators on Aug. 28, the same day the state’s wage rollback legislation took effect, to rally support for a ballot initiative to implement a $12/hour minimum wage statewide — up from the current $7.70/hour – with voters having the final say.
Krewson and Stenger joined cooks, cashiers, janitors, nursing home workers, home health aides, city aldermen, faith leaders, small business owners and activists in a rally at Urban Chestnut Brewing Company in The Grove neighborhood to announce their plans to resist the state law – which Greitens allowed to take effect without his signature – nullifying St. Louis’ $10/hour minimum wage and blocking a voter approved increase in Kansas City.
“Raising the minimum wage is really about strengthening families,” Stenger said. “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.”
RAISE UP MISSOURI
Stenger, Krewson, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece and Kansas City Mayor Sly James and other elected leaders have endorsed a grassroots effort led by Raise Up Missouri to collect the signatures required to place a statewide $12/hour minimum wage initiative on the Nov. 2018 ballot. If approved by voters, the measure would gradually raise the statewide minimum wage by 85 cents a year until it reaches $12/hour in 2023, impacting about 500,000 workers – or one in five Missourians.
Workers will need approximately 100,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
“More money in workers’ pockets means more money in businesses’ pockets,” Krewson said. “That’s what drives the economy forward.”
Workers and their allies also vowed a renewed push to convince employers to raise – not lower – the pay for working people in St. Louis. So far, 135 St. Louis employers have taken the pledge to #SaveTheRaise and continue paying the $10 minimum wage in the city, despite the state’s heartless rollback.
“In this community, we know that working people’s wages should go up, not down,” said Rev. Jon Stratton of Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis. “That’s why 135 mom and pop shops in this city have already pledged to keep the $10 minimum wage. Now we’re going to join workers in protest of big corporations cutting pay, and work together to put a $12 statewide minimum wage on the ballot in 2018. We won’t be dragged down by politicians in Jefferson City. Instead, we’re going to raise up this city and this state.”
Low-wage workers, elected officials, faith leaders and St. Louis business owners joined forces to launch the #SavetheRaise campaign in June after Gov. Greitens allowed the law nullifying the St. Louis and Kansas City minimum wage to become law. Since the campaign’s launch, restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, pet stores and the Treasurer’s Office of the City of St. Louis all have joined in the effort, pledging to pay their employees $10 an hour or better.
“As a St. Louis-based company, the success of our business depends greatly on the growth of our city so raising wages for working families is important to us,” said Florian Kuplent, co-founder and brewmaster of Urban Chestnut.
“By investing in our people, we are investing in the revitalization of the St. Louis community, and that’s good for our business and ultimately for St. Louis.”
Despite the success of the #SaveTheRaise campaign, many workers at big chains like McDonald’s and local companies like Schnucks Markets received a pay cut Aug. 28.
Workers waged increasingly militant protests across the city as rollback neared.
St. Louis workers sat in and refused to leave two McDonald’s stores where workers had been told their pay would drop.
In Kansas City, workers held a “die-in,” laying down en masse at the doorstep of the offices of fast-food lobbyists at the Missouri Restaurant Association, which lobbied hard for the rollback of local wage hikes.
UNIONS ARE THE KEY
McDonald’s and other fast-food workers also held staged a protest in St. Louis on Labor Day, kicking off a massive protest campaign that included underpaid workers across the city’s service-sector economy seeking $15 an hour and union rights.
The St. Louis Labor Day protest was one of 300 across the country, as workers across America declared loudly that unions are the key to fixing an economy that is rigged to favor the wealthy.
Wanda Rogers, a McDonald’s worker and Fight for $15 member whose pay dropped to $7.70 an hour last week, said: “Eric Greitens and Jefferson City Republicans may be trying to cut our pay and rig the economy for big corporations, but we won’t back down or stop for one second in our fight.”