JEFFERSON CITY, M.O. — About 50 Show Me $15 (the Missouri chapter of Fight for $15) activists and supporters gathered to testify Monday against Republican-backed bills that would block cities from increasing minimum wage and employee benefits higher than state law requirements.
The proposed statewide ban on minimum wage increases was a response to the years-long organizing of the low-wage workers’ movement in St. Louis, and to the fact that this movement has won a citywide higher wage of $11 by 2018.
One week after the State Supreme Court upheld the St. Louis minimum wage increase, Republican State Reps. Jason Chipman and Dan Shaul introduced the bills [HB 1193/HB1194], with an “emergency” clause, in an effort to fast track it through the legislature.
“It is shameful members of the Missouri Legislature are prioritizing and fast-tracking legislation that would take money out of the checks of people who are excited to finally make $10 an hour,” said Richard von Glahn, Jobs with Justice organizing director.
At the Capitol, Wanda Rogers, McDonald’s worker and fast food activist, stood and addressed the committee.
“I’ve been working for McDonald’s for two years. Before that I had a good paying job with the city for 10 years. But I fell ill with meningitis and almost died,” she said.
“When I was able to work again the only option was fast food. After 2 years I only make $7.70 an hour, and a raise to $10.00 would make my dream of owning a house, paying my bills, and providing a better future for my grandson seem possible.”
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay spoke after Rogers, defending the City’s actions and highlighting the positive impact it would have.
“There are 69,000 workers in St. Louis who support families who are making less than $11 per hour,” Slay said. “This raise will generate about $100 million in economic activity in Missouri.”
Republican lawmakers countered that a living wage would hurt small business owners and not help the unemployed; a talking point used by Republicans nationwide.
In fact, recent studies show that an increase in the minimum wage has an overwhelmingly positive affect for working people and is neutral for businesses.
“Representatives, I ask you to consider how your vote today would impact my life,” said Bettie Douglas, Show Me $15 leader and McDonald’s worker. “My co-workers and I were given a glimmer of hope when the Supreme Court decision came down last week. Please don’t take that away from us.”
After hours of debate, the House committee passed the measure 10-4.