Another front opens in minimum wage fight


File photo. City hall debate on the minimum wage.

The conflict over a higher city minimum wage takes another twist, as restaurant and business advocates start a petition drive to repeal it.

A city website announces the filed notice of referendum and states that they will have until Aug. 25 to submit final petitions.

If opponents get enough valid signatures, about 3,400, the recent city ordinance increasing the minimum wage will not go into effect until an election to determine if it is valid.

The city council this month voted 12-1 to increase the wage from the state level of $7.65 an hour to $8.50 on Aug. 24 and to $13 by 2020.

But complexities are many, including a competing referendum petition.

Mayor Sly James said one reason they acted was to try to avoid a contentious election related to a successful petition drive by advocates who want the wage raised to $15 an hour by 2020.

Advocates by Friday are to decide if they want to seek an election on that, the Kansas City Star reported today.

Meanwhile, even James and city attorneys have questioned whether the city increase is legal under state law and they expect a court battle.

But other cities in other states are raising the wage in what amounts to a movement, says a UMKC professor who moderated weeks of discussion between advocates and opponents of a higher Kansas City minimum wage.

In a recent New York Times column called “Minimum Wage Muddle,” David Brooks recounted the history and conflicting studies of the minimum wage.

“What we have, in sum, is a very complicated situation,” he wrote. “If we do raise the minimum wage a lot of people will clearly benefit and a lot of people will clearly be hurt.”

In Kansas City, UMKC Associate Professor Scott Helm said the issue is so complicated that “both sides can be telling the truth and talking past each other.”

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