Missouri Senate passes repeal of St. Louis minimum wage increase

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OUTRAGED: “Politicians in Jefferson City just stole food from the mouths of my children,” Bettie Douglas, a St. Louis McDonald’s worker and Show Me $15 activist seen here speaking at a rally on May 5, said of the Missouri Senate’s last-minute passage of HB 1194, which would nullify St. Louis’ minimum wage increase. – Labor Tribune photo

Unions, workers’ rights groups urge Gov. Greitens to veto the legislation

By TIM ROWDEN

Editor

With only hours to go before the close of this year’s legislative session, Missouri legislators decided to take one last hateful swipe at workers, repealing the minimum wage increase recently enacted in St. Louis and blocking a similar increase in Kansas City.

The St. Louis minimum wage increase already took effect on May 5, raising the minimum wage from $7.70 an hour to $10 for over 35,000 workers employed in the city and would put in place an increase to $11 on January 1, 2018 impacting a total of 69,000 workers.

That will all disappear if Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signs the legislation.

HB 1194 nullifies the increase by retroactively restricting cities from raising minimum wages above the state rate of $7.70 an hour.

REWARD FOR CEOS

“Politicians in the Missouri Senate spent the last minutes of the year’s legislative session pushing through a law to reward CEOs by cutting the paychecks of thousands of our state’s lowest paid workers, right before they hit the lights to leave for their own summer vacations and posh lobbyist-paid junkets,” said Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO.

“HB 1194 undermines cities’ local control in order to cut the paychecks of working families in St. Louis and Kansas City, where voters support raising wages,” Louis said. “Missouri’s Dark Money Governor and corporate puppets in the Missouri Legislature punctuated a session spent relentlessly attacking workers by once again taking food off of the tables of working families.”

500 UFCW 655 MEMBERS AMONG THOSE HIT

About 500 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655 working in the City of St. Louis will be among those to see their paychecks shrink if Governor Greitens signs the legislation.

Local 655, Service Employees International Union Local 1, Show Me $15 and other unions and workers’ rights groups are urging the governor to veto the legislation.

“Taking the money that someone has earned out of their pocket is shameful,” Local 655 President David Cook said. “I would remind the Governor that regular hard-working Missourians don’t have millions of dollars in dark money from shadowy billionaires to keep them afloat, and they don’t have taxpayers paying their salary either. Our members wake up every day and go to work. I hope the Governor remembers his promise to work for the people of Missouri, not the special interests he consistently hammered during his campaign.”

‘BOUGHT AND PAID FOR’

There was bi-partisan opposition to the bill, but not enough to stop it from being approved. Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard used several procedural maneuvers to end a Democrat-led filibuster and bring it to a vote.

“If the Governor wants to prove that all his speeches about ending politics as usual and serving the people of Missouri weren’t just hot air, then he’ll veto this bill,” Cook said. “Otherwise, he’s just another politician who has been bought and paid for.”

‘DEVASTATING’

Dennis Shaw, a Local 655 member working at Schnucks Culinaria in St. Louis, said it would be “devastating” to lose his raise.

“Not only does this make my life far more financially stressful, but it’s just plain demoralizing to think that the Governor could sign a piece of paper that literally makes my paycheck smaller,” Shaw said.

“I am glad that I have this raise until Aug. 28, but in order for me to have the flexibility I need to enroll and go back to school and finish my degree, I need Governor Greitens to veto this bill,” Shaw said. “If he believes in people like me finishing school and lifting ourselves out of poverty, he needs to veto this bill and give me the chance to do just that.”

‘A DISGRACE’

“Special interests worked the halls for weeks pushing for this pay cut,” said Caitlyn Adams, executive director of Missouri Jobs with Justice. “It is a disgrace that our legislature cares more about the demands of special interests with deep pockets than the needs of Missouri’s working families. I hope the Governor vetoes a bill that will directly cut paychecks for workers.”

‘ROBBING US OF OUR RAISE’

St. Louis McDonald’s worker and Show Me $15 activist Bettie Douglas, who was paid just $7.90 an hour before the city implemented its minimum wage increase May 5, lashed out at the Legislature’s cold-hearted indifference to the struggles of low-wage workers.

“Politicians in Jefferson City just stole food from the mouths of my children and from hard working families across St. Louis who are scraping by,” Douglas said. “By robbing us of our raise, state lawmakers are giving a handout to billion-dollar companies like McDonald’s that would rather force us onto public assistance than pay us enough to survive.”

NOT GIVING UP

Douglas said legislators and business owners are mistaken if they think workers will now simply give up.

“We fought hard to win this raise, and we’re not backing down now,” Douglas said. “We’re going to keep speaking out, going on strike, and doing whatever it takes until we win the $15 an hour and union rights we need to support ourselves. The politicians who voted to take away our raise will find themselves on the wrong side of history.”

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK

By passing the legislation after the St. Louis minimum wage increase had already taken effect, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 janitor Willie Cannon said Missouri legislators effectively voted to cut the wages of low-wage working families.

“By voting today to lower wages for tens of thousands of working people, the Missouri Senate turned back the clock on working families and our neighborhoods,” Cannon said.

SEIU Local 1 janitors, adjunct faculty, and public sector workers have been at the forefront of the fight to raise the minimum wage in St. Louis, and Cannon said they will continue to fight to make sure Governor Greitens sides with working families and not special interests.

‘THIS IS MY LIFE’

Robert Brown, a St. Louis nursing home worker of ten years who still earns below $10 an hour and an SEIU Healthcare Missouri member, reacted with dismay to the news that the Senate has passed the nullification bill.

“Today, we watched out-of-touch state lawmakers continue their war on Missouri workers by passing HB 1194, ripping away a modest minimum wage increase for tens of thousands of St. Louis workers,” Brown said, adding that it’s now up to Gov. Greitens to do the right thing and veto the bill.

“With implementation of the $10 an hour St. Louis minimum wage already under way, it’s up to the Governor now to stand with the hard-working families struggling in poverty — or the big donors and lobbyists he promised to stand against on the campaign trail. This isn’t a game,” Brown said. “This is my life.”

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