Missouri Supreme Court upholds St. Louis minimum wage increase
Al Neal/PW

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The workers of St. Louis won a historic victory yesterday as the Missouri State Supreme Court unanimously ruled, 6-0, that the city’s proposed minimum wage increase was legal.

The decision reverses a lower court’s ruling that halted the law just hours before it took effect in 2015.

The city will now raise the minimum wage to $10.00 this year and $11.00 in 2018.

“Do you know what this means?” asked Betty Douglas, fast food worker and Fight for $15 leader, to the more than fifty community supporters and workers who gathered at city hall following the ruling.

“It means that I will now be able to pay more bills and provide for my 16-year-old son because I’ll be earning $10.00 an hour instead of the $7.66 I’ve made over the last ten years.”

Show Me $15, the local SEIU-backed Fight for $15 organizing committee, along with the St. Louis Workers Education Society, and members of the City’s Board of Aldermen, organized an aggressive campaign to increase the local minimum wage to $15.00 an hour in 2015.

After months of lobbying and community outreach, a compromise was struck, $11.00 by 2018 with a small business exemption, and the bill was signed into law.

Attorneys representing the big business lobby appealed the law in 2015, arguing that without a statewide standard, there could be thousands of minimum wages throughout the state, leading to confusion. This is an argument that is frequently used around the country by conservative lawmakers who try to push for statewide bans on raising the minimum wage – a tactic pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The Missouri Supreme Court found this argument to be less than compelling.

“Its purpose of protecting employees is served by setting a floor for minimum wages; nothing in the law suggests the state also wanted to protect employers by setting a maximum minimum wage,” wrote Judge Laura Denvir Stith in the decision.

Back at City Hall, small business owner Pierce powers and his wife Lona, of Lona’s Lil’ Eats restaurant, told the crowd that they had other reasons to celebrate the court’s ruling.

“I’m here because I want to calm the nerves of other small business owners by letting them know that this increase means that more working people will be able to support more local business, because they’ll finally be able to.”

People’s World was able to speak with Ms. Betty Douglas afterward; she told us that this win was worth all the sacrifices she made to get to this point.

“You know; things have been rough for me lately. I just got a disconnection letter for my lights and I spent the winter without heat. But with today, all of the protesting, all of the fighting, and of all my tears was worth it. Because we know have a livable wage in our city.”


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.