St. Louis To Raise Minimum Wage After Court Decision
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Article From St. Louis Post Dispatch: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/missouri-supreme-court-upholds-st-louis-minimum-wage-hike/article_aaf8f23e-ae1c-51f7-9d78-381f82e3cfcb.html
JEFFERSON CITY • St. Louis will be able to raise its minimum wage to $11 by 2018, after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled Feb. 28, 2017, that the city acted within its charter authority when it approved the hike.
The decision reverses a circuit court judge who struck down the increase in 2015, just hours before it was set to take effect.
The city was sued by business groups who said the ordinance conflicted with state law that caps the minimum wage at $7.65.
Attorneys for the business organizations argued that without a state standard, there could be thousands of minimum wages throughout the state, leading to confusion rather than consistency.
Lawyers for the city contended the cost of living in St. Louis is substantially higher than other areas in the state, hence the need for a change.
The court found that the St. Louis increase didn’t conflict with the wage set by state law.
“Its purpose of protecting employees is served by setting a floor for minimum wages; nothing in the law suggests the state also wanted to protect employers by setting a maximum minimum wage,” wrote Judge Laura Denvir Stith in the decision.
Lawmakers also sought to prevent local increases in 2015, when they tacked on a minimum wage provision to a bill prohibiting municipal bans on plastic bags.
The legislation was vetoed by former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, but overridden by the GOP-led Legislature. It took effect in October 2015.
A clause in the bill, HB 722, said it would not pre-empt local ordinances passed by Aug. 28, 2015 — the day the St. Louis minimum wage ordinance took effect.
The court found that St. Louis passed its increase before HB 722 became law, and therefore could not be pre-empted.
Tom Shepard, chief of staff to St. Louis Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, said city lawmakers rushed to get the increase passed under the wire, with Reed calling meetings while the board was on break.
“Today, the Supreme Court justified our rights as a city to make sure the people in our city can make a living wage,” Reed said later in a statement. “The people of St. Louis need to be able to afford groceries for their families and a roof over their heads.”
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay also praised the court’s decision Tuesday, saying the increase will “help lift hardworking men and women out of poverty.”
The original law would have raised the minimum wage gradually over time, making it $10 an hour this year and $11 an hour next year. On Tuesday, Slay said only that his administration would work with businesses on the timing of the increase.
“It is fair to give businesses a reasonable grace period to adjust to the new minimum wage rate,” the mayor said in a statement. “We will spend the coming week talking to local business leaders to prepare to implement the increase.”