St. Louis City Board of Aldermen votes to raise minimum wage to $11 by 2018

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Minimum Wage Debate
SUPPORTERS crowded into the gallery of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen last week to listen to the debate on a bill to raise the city’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018. – Labor Tribune photo

In a tremendous victory for thousands of workers and allies that stand with them, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen has voted to boost the minimum wage in the city of St. Louis to $11 an hour by 2018.

After a lengthy debate at its meeting on Friday, the board voted 16-to-8 in favor of the bill. Fifteen votes were needed for approval. Mayor Francis Slay signed the bill into law shortly after the meeting amidst excitement and applause from supporters.

“This new law gives the workers of St. Louis a long overdue raise and brings the American Dream closer and within reach for thousands,” Slay said.

Beginning on Oct. 15, the minimum wage will rise to $8.25 an hour. Other increases will be phased in over the next three years: $9 an hour beginning Jan. 1, 2016, $10 in January 2017 and $11 in January 2018.

The new law will apply to any employee working 20 hours or more per calendar year. It would exempt employers with 15 or fewer employees and businesses with annual revenues of $500,000 or less a year.

VICTORY FOR WORKERS

Supporters, including the Missouri chapter of Jobs with Justice (JwJ) and their allies in labor, clergy, Show Me $15 and other community activists have been advocating for a higher minimum wage for months by way of meetings, rallies, phone banks and canvassing. JwJ took to email and Facebook to announce the victory

Minimum Wage Numbers
BY THE NUMBERS: About 75 supporters of the measure to raise the minimum wage in St. Louis to $11 an hour by 2018, including members of Jobs with Justice and about clergy, Show Me $15 and other community activists filed up the stairs at City Hall to join hands in prayer before heading up to the third floor gallery to witness the historic vote. – Labor Tribune photo

“While the Missouri Legislature fails to address its citizens working in poverty, we are proud of bill sponsor Alderman Shane Cohn, Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, Mayor Francis Slay and the rest of the elected leaders who took a stand for our community,” JwJ Director Lara Granich said in an email to JwJ members and supporters.

Workers also praised the vote.

“I am so proud to see the work of hundreds of low-wage St. Louis workers, tireless advocates, and council members deliver a victory on Board Bill 83, which will increase our city’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018,” said Sherry Golden Wade, a St. Louis home care worker.

“This is a victory for all who believe that those who get up and go to work each day should earn a wage that they can support themselves and their families on. This is a critical first step to making that reality.”

TIME OF THE ESSENCE

Proponents of the minimum wage increase were racing to get the bill approved by Aug. 28 – the same day a bill approved by Missouri legislators would have gone into effect prohibiting cities from raising the minimum wage above the state level. Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed the bill, but it may face a legislative override on Sept. 16.

The bill’s sponsor, Alderman Shane Cohn, 25th Ward, said the increase would give a boost to workers struggling to survive and give them more spending power.

“This is for parents,” Cohn during debate on the bill earlier in the week. “This is for seniors. This is for anyone trying to survive and make a living for themselves right now. This is an economic and moral imperative fro the city of St. Louis, this region and the state. It’s time to take action. It’s time to support the working people of the city of St. Louis.”

Alderman Megan Green said the increase would put money back into the local economy, and was necessary to keep businesses from “taking too much advantage of the people.”

Missouri’s current minimum wage is $7.65 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. It was last raised in 2009.

A bill to raise the minimum wage in unincorporated St. Louis County was rejected in July.

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