No breakthrough in minimum wage issue


File photo. A minimum wage rally in front of city hall.

After weeks of meetings, little consensus emerged Monday from a citizen group of those who support and oppose a higher city minimum wage.

There certainly was not wide business support for raising it to $13 or $15 an hour by 2020, said Bud Nichol, director of the Hotel and Lodging Association of Greater Kansas City.

Some thought “there ought to be some movement on it but by how much and when we’re all over the board,” he said.

Advocates want it raised gradually to $15 an hour by 2020 and Councilman Jermaine Reed introduced an ordinance to do that.

Mayor Sly James is circulating a proposed substitute that would raise it to $13 an hour for larger businesses by 2020 and for small businesses by 2021.

The citizen group is meeting every Monday in hopes of shaping a compromise before the city council votes on a wage hike on July 16.

Facilitator Scott Helm said Monday he would report their discussions and findings to city officials on July 9.

Business advocates noted again Monday that the cost of living in Kansas City is much less than in cites like Seattle and San Francisco that have increased their minimum wages to $15 an hour.

A CNN study based on cost of living suggests $11.83 an hour for an individual in Kansas City, Helm said.

Federal MIT poverty numbers suggest a living wage of $9.94 an hour in Kansas City for a single person, and $20.78 for an adult with child.

Chiala said of that and their $15 an hour request, “We feel like we’re making a compromise because a lot of families have more than one child they are raising.”

Nichol said companies hire individuals and “it’s not the business of business to be providing subsidies for the number of children.”

Kansas City should consider its lower cost of living in any wage increase, he said, “If we’re talking about a Kansas City solution, talk about a Kansas City solution.”

Chiala said they are not comfortable with Kansas City wages tied to whatever other cities are doing – “we believe in a Kansas City solution.”

She also said the higher wages would help businesses by giving customers more money to spend at them.

Vic Allred, board chairman of the Missouri Restaurant Association, said that money would be spent anyway, just by businesses instead of workers.

It would be more productive if spent by businesses because it would go to expansion and creating more jobs, he said.

The two sides did agree to continue to disagree on a business advocate suggestion of a lower ‘training wage” for younger workers.

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