POLITICS
11/06/2018 11:16 pm ET Updated Nov 06, 2018

Missouri Voters Approve Minimum Wage Hike

The state's wage floor is headed to $12 by 2023.
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The lowest-paid workers across Missouri will see their hourly wages increase soon, thanks to a ballot measure passed Tuesday.

A majority of voters approved an initiative that will gradually raise the wage floor throughout the state to $12 per hour. The Missouri minimum wage, currently set at $7.85, will bump to $8.60 next year, then increase 85 cents each year thereafter until it reaches $12 in 2023. After that, it would rise or fall each year according to an inflation index.

Voters in Arkansas also approved a minimum wage ballot measure Tuesday, raising it to $11 by 2021.

The passage of the raise in Missouri comes a little over a year after Republicans in the statehouse passed a law blocking all minimum wage increases attempted by localities. That law was meant to pre-empt higher minimum wages in cities like St. Louis and Kansas City. But now, barring any maneuvers by Republicans at the Capitol, the wage floor will be higher everywhere in Missouri.

The passage of Proposition B, as the measure was known, marks the second major ballot-box victory for unions and worker groups in Missouri this year, after they succeeded in blocking the state’s recently passed right-to-work law in August. The minimum wage increase will be the first significant one in Missouri since a referendum passed in 2006.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and hasn’t risen since 2009, but more and more states have chosen to hike their own wage floors, either through legislation or the ballot box. Such proposals tend to be very popular with the general public, with support for raising the minimum wage typically crossing party lines.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry said earlier this year that it would be difficult to beat back Proposition B. The business lobby’s president acknowledged it was “a more modest increase than you’ve seen in other states and regions,” given the success of the Fight for $15, the union-backed campaign to create a $15 minimum wage.

The proposition passed Tuesday was put on the ballot by a group called Raise Up Missouri, which received around $5 million in contributions, much of which came from labor unions and nonprofits. The measure picked up the support of prominent Democrats in the state, including Sen. Claire McCaskill and the mayors of St. Louis and Kansas City.

A full-time worker earning the minimum wage in Missouri makes around $16,300 per year right now. After the raises go into effect, a worker with the same amount of hours would be earning roughly $25,000 in 2023.

Some cities in Missouri have tried to raise the minimum wage on their own, only to be stymied by Republicans in the state Capitol. In May 2017, they passed what’s known as a “preemption” law that forbids cities and counties from deviating from the state minimum wage.

But afterward, workers who had supported the local minimum wage campaigns vowed to get their revenge on lawmakers through a statewide referendum that would have far more impact. Sandy Hinson, who was a 72-year-old janitor at the time, was among them. She told HuffPost she would be canvassing for Proposition B.

“I’m boiling mad,” Hinson said of the pre-emption law shortly after it was passed. “We need a raise. We need a minimum wage high enough so that you can raise a family.”

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