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Minimum wage increase gains traction

A $12 hourly rate would be reached by 2023, if Prop B passes in November

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A national network of business owners and executives are pushing to increase minimum wages, and the group is gaining traction around Springfield.

At least 48 local businesses have signed the pledge with Business for a Fair Minimum Wage to support Proposition B on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The ballot measure asks voters to raise Missouri’s minimum wage, currently $7.85 per hour, to $8.60 hourly in 2019 with an 85 cent raise each year until 2023, when it would reach $12 per hour.

“I think it’s reasonable – absolutely doable,” said Stick It In Your Ear owner Wes Nichols. “I’m behind that 100 percent.”

Nichols’ music store is among the local companies joining at least 350 total signers across the state. The businesses cross industries, from chiropractors, such as Jeffery Jones, to development company The Vecino Group, and restaurant Bambino’s Cafe to outdoor furniture retailer Maschino’s.

Stacy Jurado-Miller, owner and chief mission officer of The Vecino Group, said she signed the pledge because of the broader economic impact.

“Our company’s success, like most businesses, is dependent on the people we hire,” said she said via email. “A fair minimum wage is an essential part of ensuring a quality workforce. Employees can’t do their best work when they’re worried about paying for life’s most basic needs.”

According to organizers of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, the state’s full-time minimum wage results in earnings of $16,000 a year and “has less buying power than the minimum wage in the 1960s.”

The hourly minimum wage in Missouri’s surrounding states ranges from $7.25 in Iowa, Kentucky, Kansas and Oklahoma to $9 in Nebraska, as of Jan. 1, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oklahoma has stipulations regarding which workers are subject to state and federal minimum wage figures, according to NCSL data.

Prop B would increase penalties on Missouri businesses for paying less than minimum wage.

An employer that pays lower than minimum wage would  have to pay employees the “full amount of the wage rate plus an additional amount equal to twice the unpaid wages” under Missouri Statute Section 290.527, according to the approved ballot initiative language.

The issue created a dilemma for Nichols before he became fully supportive. The key for him was the proposition’s incremental increase.

“It’s yin and yang with me. You want to help your guys as much as you can,” said Nichols, who has four employees at the 26-year-old downtown store. “That was my 60 percent that said yes. The 40 percent that said no was unless you’re already existing as a healthy small business, there’s no way you can have a third more wage and not affect your bottom line.”

Currently, there are no registered committees that oppose Raise Up Missouri, according to Ballotpedia records. Missouri Business for a Fair Minimum Wage is a branch of Raise Up Missouri, a St. Louis-based advocacy group established in July 2017 specifically for the minimum wage issue.

There is some opposition to Prop B locally. The current SBJ.net poll shows 47 percent of pollsters are against it out of more than 370 responses.

Additionally, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce has taken the position that state and federal minimum wage rates should be consistent.

“The chamber opposes an increase of the minimum wage and supports legislation that would eliminate the indexing provision tied to Missouri’s minimum wage,” chamber spokeswoman Jennifer McClure said in a provided statement.

The last time Missouri’s minimum wage was placed on the ballot was in 2006, when voters set it at $6.50 per hour. Then the ballot measure asked “Shall Missouri Statutes be amended to increase the state minimum wage rate to $6.50 per hour, or to the level of the federal minimum wage if that is higher, and thereafter adjust the state minimum wage annually based on changes in the Consumer Price Index?” The Missouri Department of Labor set the minimum wage at $7.85 in 2018 based off the previous year’s Consumer Price Index.

Raise Up Missouri is largely funded by nonprofit organizations, with the seven-largest donors contributing 86 percent of the $1.74 million in funds raised, according to data compiled by Ballotpedia. With a $1 million contribution, the biggest donor is the social welfare nonprofit Sixteen Thirty Fund, followed by $145,000 from the National Employment Law Project and $142,500 from The Fairness Project.

Nationally, Washington has the highest state minimum wage at $11.50 an hour, but Washington, D.C., enforces a higher minimum wage, at $13.25 an hour, according to NCSL data. The lowest state wage is $5.15 per hour in Georgia and Wyoming, and five states do not have a set minimum wage.

The last increase for the federal minimum wage was in 2009 to $7.25 from $6.55, according to Labor statistics.

Signatures to add Prop B to the November ballot were certified by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft on Aug. 2.

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DH

“It’s yin and yang with me. You want to help your guys as much as you can,” said Nichols

Then, do it. That's your choice as a business owner, right now. Today. The minimum wage does not limit you from paying your employees more. Pay your guys more now, when they can actually benefit from it. Wait until everyone is forced to pay more and then your guys' buying power sees no improvement due to increased inflation.

Such a statement underlines the unfortunate fact that many people do not understand the nature and ramifications of mandated minimum wages. It is not a solution, but a perpetuator of the cycle of rising costs of living.

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