City leaders discuss push to boost minimum wage to $15 - KCTV5


City leaders discuss push to boost minimum wage to $15

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City leaders are questioning if Kansas City should follow Seattle and Los Angeles and increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

This is an issue leaders at city hall have been wrestling with for weeks and a house bill in Missouri could make things difficult.

In order for the issue to be placed on an August ballot, city council members had to make a decision Thursday. And the Committee As A Whole, which is what the committee is called, did not make that decision Thursday.

Council members listened to experts about what would happen to the city's economy, to assistance programs for people, if the minimum wage gradually increased.

On one side, some say the minimum wage should be increased so people can earn a livable wage. Some argued that it would pull people out of poverty.

On the other side there are those who say raising it will backfire and hurt businesses. Some, such as the Missouri Restaurant Association, said it would force employees to cut jobs.

Fast-food and other low-skilled workers have been fighting for a hike in the minimum wage for some time.

The movement picked up steam this week when Los Angeles leaders decided to increase the minimum wage there to $15.

That is the same amount Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed proposed city leaders do here as well.

But some on the council, including Mayor Sly James, who supports raising the minimum wage, expressed concerned about the legality of doing that.

Missouri law bans cities from raising the minimum wage to anything higher than what the state has set, at $7.65 an hour. But that law has yet to take effect.

House Bill 722 hasn't been signed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon yet. It would allow cities who increased its minimum wage to be grandfathered in after the new bill would prohibit any increases higher than the state's level.

One consideration city leaders could take is to increase the municipal minimum wage before the state law takes effect.

The other option would have been to place the issue on the ballot in August and let voters decide. Nearly 4,000 people signed a petition to put the issue on the August ballot to let the voters decide.

The council was supposed to respond to that petition Thursday, but James said the council needed more time.

"Because at the end of the day, we are being asked to make a decision on something extremely serious that hasn't been vetted," James said.

Since council members weren't able to make a decision before their deadline, the issue won't make it onto the August ballot.

"We actually think we are permitted to do this, we can go forward in Kansas City, it's not something that state law prohibits," said Justin Stein, with Jobs for Justice.

James said he would be an advocate for increasing the minimum wage and he promised there would be an ordinance within 60 days.

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology broke down what it means for someone residing in Kansas City to have a livable wage, which is defined as having enough money to pay all basic expenses for a year.

They say a single working adult here needs to earn $9.92 an hour to get by.

A working adult with three kids would need to make $30.75 an hour. Two working adults, with three kids to support, would each need to make $16.01 an hour.

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