Earlier this year, the Missouri House turned down a bill that would have raised the State minimum wage from $5.15 and hour to $6.50. Last week, an amendment that would have raised the Federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour over the next 2 years failed to reach the 60 votes needed to pass the U.S. Senate. On this edition of KSMU's Sense of Community Series produced by KSMU News Director Mike Smith, we hear Missouri's senior Senator Kit Bond, and Governor Matt Blunt express their opposition to raising the minimum wage, and from State Representative John Bowman and a Springfield waitress named Candy who hope voters will approve a wage hike if and when the issue comes before voters in November.
For KSMU's Sense of Community Series, I'm Mike Smith.
On January 18th of this year, State Representative John Bowman introduced to the Missouri Legislature House Bill 1433 which would have raised the minimum wage from $5.15 and hour to $6.50. The bill failed, and Bowman, a Democrat who represents a portion of North St. Louis County which includes Lambert Airport and 8 municipalities, says party partisanship helped kill the bill.
Following the failure of HB 1433, supporters organized an initiative petition campaign and collected more than 210,000 signatures of those in favor of a wage hike. If the Secretary of State's office certifies 93,345 of those signatures valid, the issue will go before voters on the November Ballot.
The Federal minimum wage originated from New Deal legislation signed by President Roosevelt. In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act set the minimum wage at 25 cents an hour.
According to the AFL-CIO, more than 42,000 Missourians are currently working for minimum wage, and around 100,000 Missouri workers earn less than $6.50 an hour.
Representative John Bowman says too many Missouri jobs simply don't pay enough to keep families and individuals out of poverty, especially in the wake of price increases for goods and services since 1996 when the last Federal minimum wage hike was approved by Congress.
Sandy Howard, Public Affairs Manager with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce; U.S. Senator Kit Bond; and Missouri Governor Matt Blunt all tell KSMU that any hike of the minimum wage should be tied to the Federal level and Federal Legislation. They also say if Missouri does raise the minimum wage, it will cost the state jobs. State Representative John Bowman says exactly the opposite will happen.
Economists have also weighed in on the issue. Tom Wyrick, Professor of Economics at Missouri State University says "In general terms, most economists agree that the market should drive the wage workers earn and a minimum wage simply gets in the way of economic efficiency".
Meanwhile "Candy", a Springfield waitress earning the hourly "Servers Minimum Wage" of $2.13 an hour, (plus tips) says she hopes the issue will go before voters in November, and will receive enough votes to pass. She also invites the state's legislators and business leaders who oppose raising the minimum wage to try to live on her salary for a month.
For KSMU, I'm Mike Smith.