Study, compromise?: Minimum wage scramble begins

Participants arriving at the minimum wage committee hearing.

Participants arriving at the minimum wage committee meeting.

A citizen group met for the first time Monday to try to put together a higher minimum wage recommendation to the city council.

Mayor Sly James has agreed to support an ordinance that would have to be enacted before Aug. 28. That is when a new state law, still not signed by the governor, could forbid such city action.

James invited the Minimum Wage Stakeholder Group of about 30 people to discuss the matter Monday at the city health department.

Facilitator Allan Katz, UMKC professor of public affairs and political science, asked the group to select four members from each side to attend another meeting within a week.

James has said the council should vote on the ordinance by July 16.

On Monday, the complexity of compromise became clear.

The proposal is to raise the minimum wage, probably to less than $15 an hour, in graduated steps by 2020.

Katz asked people to list possible trigger factors that could move up the wage in those steps, or not.

Among the long list:

  • Look at wage increase effect on the consumer price index for the Midwest – is it causing job loss and inflation that make poor people worse off than before?
  • Look at costs in communities adjacent to the city that do not have the higher wage.
  • Look at costs to non-profits and potential impact on social services they provide.
  • How does it affect the poverty rate and does it increase tax revenue for the city. Or will city taxes go up because it will have to pay some higher wages?

People also suggested exemptions for things like small businesses and for training young new employees.

Jason Pryor of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association said he would work with the process but questioned the value of a higher minimum wage.

In a decade, the minimum wage in Missouri increased 49 percent to $7.65 from $5.14, he said. “The poverty situation is still there; Nothing has changed; What are we trying to accomplish?”

A crowd of low-wage people attending the meeting did not interrupt but clearly took a different view.

Katz said, “If this was easy, we wouldn’t all be sitting here.”

Leave a Comment