St. Louis fast food workers push for vote to raise minimum wage
St. Louis mayor, Lyda Krewson (center), supports the ballot initiatve to raise the city's minimum wage. | J. B. Forbes/AP

ST. LOUIS – Fast food and low-wage workers announced a plan Aug. 28 that would reverse the Missouri legislature’s decision to roll back the minimum wage from $10.00 to $7.70.

Elected officials, including St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, joined workers at a press conference to back a ballot initiative led by Raise Up Missouri. The group is collecting signatures to place a statewide $12-an-hour minimum wage initiative on the November 2018 ballot.

“Eric Greitens (the governor) and Jefferson City Republicans may be trying to cut our pay and rig the economy for big corporations, but we wont back down or stop for one second in our fight,” said Wanda Rogers, a McDonald’s worker and Fight for $15 member whose pay will drop from $10 to $7.70 an hour.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens allowed the preemption bill to take effect as he signed his first budget into law June 30.

“More money in workers’ pockets means more money in businesses’ pockets. And that’s what drives the economy forward,” said Krewson. “I see the petitions here in hand, I’m going to be proud to be accepting, to be collecting signatures, and I think we’ll get it done.”

For now, thousands of low-wage workers will lose the temporary raise they won after a two-year court battle.

Though the bill prevents the city from raising the minimum wage, it doesn’t stop local business from keeping the increase, and over 150 St. Louis employers have pledged to continue paying workers $10 an hour.

The ballot initiative would gradually raise the state minimum wage by 85 centers a year, until it reaches $12 in 2023.

Stenger explained that the ballot initiative takes business owners needs into account.

“It’s a measure that makes sense morally and economically,” said Stenger. “The incremental method by which the minimum age would steadily rise under this proposal … is fair to businesses because it allows them to plan for the future and adjust accordingly.”

Missouri Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St.Louis, highlighted the other benefits of increasing the state minimum, including fewer Missourians receiving public assistance and reduction in crime.

“They’re willing to work. And they’re saying no, we will not pick up guns, we’ll pick up a hammer. We will not pick up guns, but we will flip that burger to put food on the table,” said Nasheed. “We must understand that the crime that exists in our community today is in direct correlation to what’s happening with low wages. Because people can’t make it on $7.70 an hour.”


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.