Increase in Missouri minimum wage prompts call for change from Missouri Chamber

Source: Missouri and U.S. Departments of Labor.

Source: Missouri and U.S. Departments of Labor.

— The Missouri Department of Labor announced on Friday that the state’s minimum wage will increase to $7.50 an hour starting next year, drawing criticism from the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and renewed calls to eliminate the state’s automatic wage escalator.

Dan Mehan, president of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, noted in a statement that the wage rate increase puts Missouri’s wage 25 cents higher than the federal minimum wage, and said it is higher than every other neighboring state except Illinois.

“As the minimum wage increases, the ability of employers to continue to employ workers is damaged – hitting entry level jobs especially hard,” Mehan said. “It causes uncertainty and positions Missouri to raise its minimum wage to uncompetitive levels. We opposed the change to the law in 2006 and maintain that wages should be set by market demand, not bureaucrats.”

The state’s minimum wage has increased a total of $2.35 since 2006, when Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to have the state’s minimum wage rate increase along with the cost of living index. The law exempts businesses whose gross sales are less than $500,000, the department noted.

Since its passage, lawmakers – at the urging of the Chamber – have tried, unsuccessfully, to repeal the law four times.

Lara Granich, director of Missouri Jobs with Justice, said the raise was good news for Missouri workers, but that it is their belief that the raise should actually be higher, perhaps some four times what it is in areas like Kansas City and St. Louis.

“It means that our hard-working neighbors can buy as much bread and milk at the neighborhood store next year as they were able to buy this year,” she said. “The cost of living adjustment in Missouri’s minimum wage keeps the lowest paid people in our economy from falling further behind.”