Voters in Kansas City, Missouri recently voted to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.
In a referendum on new city-wide minimum wage, 68 percent of the voters supported increasing the minimum wage to $10 an hour immediately and then beginning in 2019 raising the minimum wage each year by $1.25 an hour until it reaches $15 an hour in 2022.
Voters voted overwhelmingly to support the new minimum wage despite a new state law passed in May that prohibits cities and other local governments from enacting local minimum wages that exceed the state minimum wage, currently set at $7.70 an hour.
The state law, which Missouri Gov. Eric Greiten allowed to go into effect, becomes effective on August 28.
In the meantime, Missouri unions announced that they will begin a campaign to raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour.
After the result of the Kansas City minimum wage vote was announced, Rev. Vernon Percy Howard, president of the Greater Kansas City Southern Christian Leadership Conference ( SCLC), praised voters for the landslide victory.
“We are so pleased that Kansas City has demonstrated a progressive political perspective on tone and attitude on this issue,” said Howard to CNN Money. “Our brothers and sisters deserve human dignity.”
Howard also said that the vote reflects a growing concern among a broad section of the population about income inequality.
“Income inequality was and is a major issue in Kansas City and across this country,” said Rev. Howard. “We want to thank all those individuals who voted but are not low-wage workers for being people of good will.”
SCLC was one of the groups that came together to form KC for $15, the coalition that led the effort to pass initiative #3, the minimum wage increase initiative on the ballot.
Some in the media called the vote on initiative #3 a symbolic gesture because the state law nullifying local minimum wage ordinances will go into effect soon.
Howard, however, said that the vote was more than empty symbolism and that he had serious doubts about the constitutionality of the state law. Howard said that he foresees a legal challenge to the law.
Other groups that have been working to raise the minimum wage said that the Kansas City vote was an important victory but that much more work needs to be done in order to raise the minimum wage.
The Kansas City vote to raise the minimum wage give us “cause to celebrate,” reads a posting on the Stand Up KC Facebook page. “But we won’t see a penny of it because the legislature passed a bill taking away the right of voters and cities to raise wages above $7.70. Tonight is a time to be proud of our city and angry at our legislator. We will continue to fight.”
On the day before the Kansas City vote on initiative #3 took place, Stand Up KC joined Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 Missouri, the Missouri AFL-CIO, and Missouri Jobs with Justice in announcing the start of a campaign to raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour.
After making their announcement, members of the coalition began gathering signatures on a petition to put the new minimum wage proposal on the state ballot for the 2018 elections.
To do so, they will need to collect more than 100,000 valid signatures on their petition.
“This campaign takes the power out of Jefferson City (Missouri’s capital city) and gives it back to the people where it belongs,’ said Richard Franklin, a janitor and SEIU member. It’s up to us, the people, to take matters into our own hands.”
In a related development, Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO announced on August 11 that unions had gathered more than 300,000 signatures on a petition to put an initiative that would veto the state’s new right to work law before the voters.
The petition will be delivered on August 14 to the Missouri Secretary of State for validation.
If there are 100,126 or more valid signatures on the petition, the initiative will be added to the November 2018 ballot, and implementation of the right to work law will be delayed until after the vote.