ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – It was standing-room only Tuesday morning in the Kennedy Room at St. Louis City Hall as hearings got underway on a proposal to nearly double St. Louis city’s minimum wage within five years.
“This is a topic that’s of great importance to myself and the citizens of the city of St. Louis,” noted 25th Ward Alderman and bill sponsor Shane Cohn. “Board Bill 83 actually establishes a minimum wage for the city of St. Louis, which does not currently have a minimum wage on its books.”
Cohn’s bill would set a $10 minimum wage immediately upon being signed by the mayor, and then increase in increments until reaching $15 an hour by 2020.
The current minimum wage in the state of Missouri is $7.65 an hour.
“Simply put, the average person cannot survive on $7.65,” according to Cohn. “That’s less than $16,000 per year to put a roof over your head, food on the table, and transportation to get to work. And possibly – maybe – to be able to scrape together just enough to save for your future.”
But there are two sides to every story, and Mitch Waks with Cooperative Home Care was given time at the dais to tell his.
“This particular bill would shut our doors,” Waks told members of the city’s Ways and Means Committee. “Now, they don’t technically shut because what I’ll have to do is move out of the city and pray that the state doesn’t pass this as well.”
Waks labored to make the point that minimum wage is supposed to be a starting point for entry-level workers, who ideally move on and up with the company the more time they spend there.
“At 17 years old, that ($7.65/hr.) is a fair wage. Now if you’re 40 years old and still making that, that’s not the wage’s fault,” Waks said, sending a murmur of dissent through the large crowd of pro-wage hike supporters.
Boosting Waks’ point of view was a study released Tuesday morning by the Missouri Restaurant Association, which commissioned Trinity University professor Dr. David Macpherson to look at the impact of a $15 an hour minimum wage on St. Louis’ economy.
He concluded that nearly doubling the current minimum wage within five years could be devastating to St. Louis-area employers.
“They’re going to have to do one of three things – either reduce the number of workers, reduce their profits, or raise their profits,” Macpherson told KMOX News. “None of those are good options.”
He determined that St. Louis could expect to lose 3,100 jobs once the minimum wage hit the $15 level, with 55 percent of those being held by women.
Macpherson’s report concluded that while raising wages is an admirable goal, St. Louis can’t afford a proposal that will put jobs out of reach for the employees it’s trying to help.
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