Kansas City Council votes for minimum wage increase to $13 per hour by 2020

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Kansas City minimum wage
RAISING THE WAGE: After months of furious debate, the Kansas City Council voted 12-1 last week for a minimum wage increase that calls for $13 per hour by 2020. After the vote, Dana Wittman, of Stand Up KC (middle), led cheers just outside the council chambers. – Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star photo

$15 minimum for St. Louis still in limbo

The Kansas City Council voted 12-1 last week for a minimum wage increase that calls for $13 per hour by 2020.

It’s not as high as the $15 per hour that will be required in a few years in Seattle, San Francisco and some other cities, but the new law would place Kansas City among a wave of cities instituting big pay raises for the working poor.

ST. LOUIS MINIMUM

St. Louis leaders have vowed to raise this city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. The effort is currently awaiting further action by the St. Louis Board of Alderman.

On June 5, the board introduced the bill to increase minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour by 2020. Sponsored by Alderman Shane Cohn, 25th Ward, 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 except those with revenues less than $500,0000 or 15 or fewer employees.

Alderman Joe Vaccaro, acting chairman of the city’s Ways and Means Committee, announced on June 26 that he was canceling all further hearings on raising the minimum wage, essentially putting the bill in limbo.

Vaccaro, of the 23rd Ward, became acting chair of the committee after Alderman Steve Conway, its regular chairman, stepped aside from the issue based on a conflict of interest. Conway is chief financial officer for Imo’s Pizza, a restaurant chain that would be affected.

Vaccaro said he has not been able to find the votes to pass a proposal that reached $15 an hour, even gradually. He added that the bill should have been introduced six months ago to allow for more discussion on the issue.

He also noted then-pending legislation (HB 722) that would have prohibited cities from raising the minimum wage above the state level. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed HB 722 on July 10.

See previous coverage:

HIGHEST IN STATE

If nothing changes, Kansas City could soon have the highest minimum wage in Missouri.

The increases will come gradually, with the first bump Aug. 24. In Kansas City, the minimum wage would rise from the state-set minimum of $7.65 per hour to $8.50 per hour.

Kansas City businesses have threatened to go to court soon to fight the wage raise.

Supporters, meanwhile, have said they may still seek a ballot measure this year to implement a $15 per hour wage by 2020.

A GOOD COMPROMISE

Despite the ongoing uncertainty and acrimony, Kansas City Council members said they felt their approach was a good compromise and the right thing to do.

“I think we should be part of what is a growing national effort, a grassroots effort” for social justice and economic equity, Councilman John Sharp said. “I think we have done something we can all be proud of.”

Dozens of low-wage workers who had gathered at City Hall erupted in cheers after the vote.

Fast-food worker Terrance Wise, 36, a spokesman for the low-wage advocacy group Stand Up KC, said $13 was a step in the right direction, although his group will still push for $15 per hour by 2020.

The original push for a higher minimum wage came several months ago from a grassroots-led petition initiative. It sought to raise the wage from $7.65 per hour to $10 per hour by Sept. 1 and gradually to $15 per hour by 2020.

(Some information for this story from the Kansas City Star.)

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