Here’s a tip if you’re thinking of ever running for president: it’s probably not a good idea to yank away pay raises from your state’s lowest-paid workers—the people who need that money the most. That’s the choice confronting my state of Missouri’s new governor, Eric Greitens, a rising star in the GOP who has presidential ambitions.
Gov. Greitens may soon be asked to sign a bill that would nullify St. Louis’s minimum wage increase and ban other Missouri cities and counties from passing increases in the future.
Taking away these long-overdue raises is a terrible idea. Minimum wage workers in Missouri who work full time make only $16,000 a year. In 2015, St. Louis approved a proposal to gradually raise the city’s minimum wage to $11 by 2018—joining a growing wave of cities and counties nationwide that have moved to raise wages locally because of the failure of Congress and state legislatures to act.
Opponents of the St. Louis increase, backed by powerful CEOs and industry groups, sued to halt the increases, but their legal challenge was rejected last month by the Missouri Supreme Court. Now, growing desperate to keep wages down, they’ve introduced an “emergency” bill to immediately nullify the St. Louis increase and stop other localities from adopting similar increases.
As an actual small business owner... I can firmly attest to the business benefits of raising wages.
This “preemption” bill has already passed the Missouri House, and state GOP leaders are pressing for swift passage in the Missouri Senate. That would send the bill to Greitens’ desk for his signature, putting the new governor in the hot seat. Does he really want to be seen snatching away pay raises from hard-working Missourians?
In our current political environment—the one that produced both candidate Bernie Sanders and President Trump—it seems downright idiotic to me for anyone with eyes on our nation’s highest office to so publicly and foolishly side against working people.
There’s strong public support for these raises, so industry lobbyists have had to dig in their heels—leaning more than ever on that oft-repeated myth that minimum wage increases hurt small business and lead to job loss.
Here, they are on shaky ground: The leading research shows that raising the minimum wage helps workers with little or no impact on business or employment, including in many of the cities that have raised wages in recent years.
Studies are one thing, but as an actual small business owner—the supposed victim of raises to the minimum wage—I can firmly attest to the business benefits of raising wages.
Decades of experience running my company have taught me that raising the minimum wage is a win-win for workers and employers. Since my business partner and I started selling our records in a small booth at a farmer’s market almost 40 years ago, Vintage Vinyl has grown into a multi-million-dollar company with more than 20 employees.
I have no doubt that we owe a large part of our success to our investment in the people who work for us. By paying above the minimum wage, we have been able to attract devoted, long-term employees, whose relationships with our customers are the backbone of our business. In our industry, this was a major competitive advantage for us over numerous local, regional, and national record-store chains that have failed in the past 20 years, after paying their employees the minimum wage, or barely above, for the most part.
While these stores dealt with the costs of constant employee turnover, training costs for new hires, and a subpar customer experience, my employees consistently boosted my bottom line. Meanwhile, every extra dollar that I have paid them fuels our local and state economy, and ultimately small businesses like mine. Many small business owners have low-wage customers, and putting a couple of extra bucks an hour in all those customer’s hands be good for their business.
From where I stand, raising wages is good for workers, good for business, and good for communities. Most importantly, it’s just the right thing to do. I would never want someone who works for me to struggle to keep a roof over their head, and I’d be willing to bet that most small-business owners feel the same way. And small business owners still on the fence should ask themselves this: Do you have more minimum wage employees or minimum wage customers? Wouldn’t putting a couple of extra bucks an hour in all those customer’s hands be good for your business?
If Greitens has any thoughts at all of a higher office, he should think long and hard before he takes the wrong side in the fight for livable wages. Working people in Missouri will not forget his choice, and voters across the country will surely understand why.