Missouri Chamber seeks to curb cities’ powers on discrimination, minimum wage

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Missouri Capitol
MISSOURI CAPITOL BUILDING in Jefferson City

Jefferson City – Business groups are aligning behind an effort to challenge the ability of city and county governments to set their own rules on discrimination, minimum wage and other issues, the Kansas City Star reports.

According to a blog post on the Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry website: “The Missouri Chamber will advocate for legislation that would protect Missouri from these mandates, specifically targeting ordinances that mandate leave beyond the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), modified discrimination laws and standards and increased minimum wage.”

The Chamber is trying to organize a three-pronged attack:

  • DISCRIMINATION – It wants to ban local governments from implementing discrimination laws that are stricter than the state’s.
  • MINIMUM WAGE – It wants to prohibit cities from boosting their minimum wage.
  • SICK LEAVE – It wants to ban cities from mandating benefits such as vacation or sick leave.

LOCAL SOLUTIONS TO NATIONAL PROBLEMS

Nationwide, efforts to increase the minimum wage and provide paid sick leave are gaining in popularity.

New York City, Portland, OR, Seattle and a few other cities require private employers to offer paid sick leave. Other cities — including Seattle and Chicago — have minimum wage requirements that surpass the state and federal level.

President Barack Obama recently announced he would grant at least six weeks of paid leave to federal employees after the birth or adoption of a child.

In his State of the Union address last week, the President called on Congress to require companies to give workers up to seven days of paid sick leave a year.

He’s also encouraging state and local governments to pass their own paid leave requirements if Congress fails to act.

According to Governing magazine, more than a dozen cities have passed measures mandating sick leave for people who work in the private sector.

A growing number of cities also are enacting their own minimum wage laws, Governing reports, even when states have boosted theirs beyond the federal level. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wage laws that set a higher rate than the federal $7.25 an hour, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

In response, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other groups have ramped up efforts to resist workplace regulations.

DISCRIMINATION

More than a dozen cities and counties around Missouri have passed ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, including St. Louis and Kansas City.

The Missouri chamber has historically opposed efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s Human Rights Act alongside things such as race, gender and age, the Kansas City Star reports. They’ve argued doing so would open businesses up to litigation.

MINIMUM WAGE

Missouri minimum wage workers got a 15 cent raise this year, raising their hourly wage rate to $7.65 because of this year’s 1.8 percent inflation rate on the Midwest CIP-W index. Missouri’s minimum wage was tied to the Cost-Of-Living in a voter-approved initiative in 2006.

By comparison, Illinois voters approved a nonbinding referendum last November to raise the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 an hour. But in Chicago, the city council went even further and voted last month to gradually hike the rate to $13 an hour by 2019.

SICK LEAVE

Under federal and most state laws, employers are not required to offer paid sick leave or any other type of paid fringe benefit. It is left up to the employer’s discretion, or to any contract the employer may have with its employees.

Some U.S. states and cities – including New York City, Seattle and Washington, D.C. – have passed laws guaranteeing paid sick leave. In his State of the Union speech last week, President Obama encouraged others to follow suit.

(Information for this story from the Kansas City Star, Governing magazine, the Missouri Department of Labor and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.)

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