Missouri voters to decide on higher wages, paid sick leave
Missouri fair wages initiative

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.Missouri Jobs with Justice leaders celebrated last month in front of the Secretary of State’s office as Missourians for Healthy Families and the Fair Wages campaign officially submitted signatures for a ballot measure to deliver paid sick days and higher wages to Missouri’s working families.

The ballot initiative would raise the state minimum wage from $12.30 an hour to $13.75 on Jan. 1, 2025 and $15 on Jan. 1, 2026, followed by annual cost of living adjustments so the minimum wage does not lose purchasing power in the future. It would also enable employees to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employers with fewer than 15 employees can limit usage to 40 hours per year; those with 15 or more employees can set a limit of 56 hours per year.

“Like most Missourians, I work hard every day,” said Alejandro Gallardo, a Columbia, Mo., worker and signature gatherer. “But I’m not able to earn a single day of sick time. When I’m not feeling well, I’m forced into impossible choices. Do I go to work and possibly get my co-workers, customers and their families sick? Or do I stay home to heal, but miss out on a needed paycheck?

“This initiative is about making our communities healthier, safer, and stronger so that none of our neighbors are forced to choose between a paycheck and their family’s health,” continued Gallardo. “I gathered signatures because workers like me deserve the ability to earn paid sick days and a fair wage. This will benefit everyone, and I’m here to see that through.”

Missouri Jobs with Justice leaders gathered more than 100,000 signatures of the 210,000 signatures submitted to place the initiative on the ballot.

If Show Me State voters approve, they would join the raft of states and cities where voters have become tired of political inaction, in Washington, D.C., state capitals, or both, on raising wages and enacting paid family and medical leave and taken matters into their own hands.

Neither cause has gotten had a hearing in the current Republican-run U.S. House. Paid family leave has been proposed for decades. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 hourly for 15 years.

Missouri business owners also support the initiative. The business owners are part of Missouri Business for a Healthy Economy, a new and growing coalition of more than 400 business owners who believe raising the minimum wage and paid sick days are good for business.

Builds a strong economy

“Minimum wage increases go right back into the economy as spending at local businesses,” the group said in a statement. “With better wages and earned paid sick time, businesses benefit from lower employee turnover, lower hiring and training costs, increased productivity, better health and safety, and better customer service, which keeps customers coming back.”

David Burmeister, owner of Midwest Pasta Co. in St. Louis, said “raising the minimum wage will increase people’s ability to shop at our business and local businesses across Missouri. We’re already starting employees at $15 at Midwest Pasta Co. because we’ve seen that paying better wages is better business.

‘Employees are happier at work and do a better job. We also provide paid sick leave because we value our staff and, as a food industry business, we know it isn’t safe for sick employees to come to work. The ballot initiative will strengthen Missouri’s workforce and businesses.”

Joseph Chevalier, owner of Yellow Dog Bookshop in Columbia, added “the minimum wage needs to be raised. Small businesses like mine depend on local customers with money to spend. If a small bookstore like ours can plan ahead for the wage increases and paid sick time in this ballot initiative, so can other businesses. We’ll all benefit from increased consumer spending and a healthier economy.”

“No matter our zip code, our race or what job we have, we work hard for our families. Being there for our families is non-negotiable,” said Caitlyn Adams, executive director of Missouri Jobs with Justice.

“No Missourian should have to choose between a day’s pay and their family’s well-being. Tens of thousands of Missourians who work full-time do not get any paid sick days. Missouri’s economy should reward hard work, not punish hard-working people for getting sick.”

Missouri Jobs with Justice is the leading grassroots organization fighting for an economy and democracy that works for working people. Since 2006, Missouri Jobs with Justice leaders have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures to expand Medicaid, raise the minimum wage, clean up democracy and reject so-called “right to work” laws in Missouri. They’ve won most of those referendums, despite opposition.

“Initiative petitions are how everyday Missourians have their voices heard and pass policies that matter most to our communities,” said Katelyn Zach, a Springfield, Mo., resident and signature gatherer. “When our leaders refuse to deliver for our families, we as Missourians take power into our own hands and show up for our communities.”

“I’ve been a part of several ballot initiatives, and this has been by far the biggest show of power from grassroots groups I’ve ever seen,” said Sharon Al-Uqdah, retired Postal Workers Local 67 president. “Hundreds took to the streets, union halls, front porches and festivals to talk with our neighbors and put this on the ballot. On kick-off day, grassroots leaders gathered more than 8,400 signatures in a single day.”

It hasn’t been decided yet whether the initiative will be on the August primary election or November general election ballot. That decision will be made by May 28.

Missouri’s November ballot will also include a pro-abortion referendum. It would overturn a draconian anti-abortion law from the Republican-gerrymandered state legislature, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Missourians for Constitutional Freedom said.

Abortion rights supporters gathered more than 380,000 voter signatures. They needed more than 171,000 signatures from six of the eight congressional districts and garnered signatures in all eight. “Anti-abortion politicians take note: My patients’ lives are not yours to control,” said Dr. Iman Alsaden, Chief Medical Officer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

Sheri Gassaway is a new staff writer at the St. Louis-Southern Illinois Labor Tribune.

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Sheri Gassaway
Sheri Gassaway

Sheri Gassaway is the assistant editor of the union-owned St Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune.