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Aldermen pass minimum wage hike to $11 by 2018 in St. Louis – AIM maintains its illegality

From St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Aldermen completed a harrowing process to raise the city’s minimum wage – a decision that supporters say will help the city’s low-income workers.

But few believe that Friday’s affirmative vote marks the last word in the minimum wage saga, especially if businesses or business groups pursue legal action to invalidate the newly enacted ordinance.

Associated Industries of Missouri maintains that the action of the Board of Aldermen is illegal. State statute prohibits local governments from enacting a local minimum wage. State law overrides local law and the state law allows employers to pay $7.65 per hour.

“The City of St. Louis has ignored state law and saddled employers with a big headache with this one,” said Ray McCarty, president of Associated Industries of Missouri. “How are employers supposed to receive notice of this supposed increase in minimum wage – there is no practical way to inform employers of their supposed liability if they are trying to make this effective immediately. The city leaders moved forward, despite the Mayor being put on notice that the action is illegal. Employers in the City of St. Louis will have no choice but to violate the ordinance, at least initially, and challenge the ordinance in court as there is simply no time to implement this change,” said McCarty.

Aldermen backed legislation by a 16-8 margin that would gradually raise the city’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018. The city’s wage will go up from $7.65 an hour to $8.25 an hour on Oct. 15 – and then go up to $9 an hour on Jan. 1. It will then rise to $10 an hour in 2017 and $11 an hour in 2018.

If an employer is found to be in “repeated violation” of the ordinance’s guidelines, the city’s license collector can revoke an establishment’s business license. The Board of Public Service can also take away other licenses, such as an occupancy permit.

Alderman Shane Cohn, D-25th Ward, sponsored the minimum wage bill. He said the bill’s passage “was the first step for our city to make progress on economic justice for workers in our hometown.”

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signed the bill sponsored by Shane Cohn of the 25th Ward into law soon after the Board of Aldermen passed it. With the Democratic mayor’s signature, St. Louis becomes the second city in Missouri – behind Kansas City – to raise its minimum wage this year.

“This new law gives the workers of St. Louis a long, overdue raise and brings the American Dream closer and within reach for thousands of families in our area,” Slay said at a press conference signing the bill.

Getting Cohn’s bill to Slay’s desk wasn’t easy. Legislation that raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour got bottled up in an aldermanic committee, and aldermen couldn’t approve a pared down version in time for their summer break. Some contended that they needed to get the work done by Friday, mainly because of a vetoed bill known as HB722 that clearly pre-empts local minimum wage increases that go into effect after Aug. 28. However, HB 722 simply clarifies the existing state statute that determines the minimum wage that must be paid. Local ordinances may not override state statute.

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