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Competing referendums put brakes on KC minimum wage increase

From the Kansas City Business Journal

Kansas City business owners won’t need to start paying a higher minimum wage on on Aug. 24, thanks to a pair of competing petitions.

On July 16, the Kansas City Council passed an ordinance that would raise the minimum wage within the city to $13 an hour

by 2020 in defiance of Missouri law. That action has raised the ire of competing groups looking to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, rather than $13 an hour, and reverse the decision made by the city council. Both groups are looking to put the minimum wage question to a vote of the people in a coming election.

Right now, the “notice of referendum”, according to Kansas City’s website, means the July 16 ordinance itself is not yet law. For business owners, that means there will be no requirement to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour from the $7.65 an hour wage set by the state. The July 16 action would have raised the wage starting next week.

It seems that the minimum wage will not be changed in Kansas City until November, at the earliest. Even then, its unclear whether the city can compel businesses to actually pay a higher wage.

Raise the wage

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council received and filed a letter asking for a petition filed in late May — asking to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour — be put to a public vote. The council referred an ordinance calling for an election on Nov. 3 raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour immediately and to $15 an hour by 2020 to the Committee As A Whole.

Maggie Rea, chief deputy city clerk, said the meeting has yet to be scheduled, but the vote cannot proceed until the newly elected Kansas City Council votes to move ahead with the election. The debate around the last measure lasted for months.

Vernon Howard, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, said his group has been fighting to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour since the beginning of 2014. Howard said Kansas City’s action to raise the minimum wage was commendable, but didn’t do enough to help the city’s working poor.



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