Business owners, workers push to raise minimum wage in Missouri
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri business owners, workers and supporters submitted a petition in support of a minimum wage increase on Wednesday morning.
"Right now, people across this state are working full time and are struggling to provide for their families and are living in poverty," supporter Tony Wyche said.
More than 120,000 people signed the petition, which proposes an increase to Missouri's minimum wage from $7.85 to $8.60. The wage would gradually increase each year, by 85 cents, until the wage reaches $12 an hour in 2023.
"A full time worker earning minimum wage makes just $16,000 a year," Missouri Jobs with Justice staff member, Theresa Danly said. "They must rely on government assistance and are unable to fully participate in our economy or society."
Organizations who support the petition like Raise Up Missouri and the Missouri Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, said the raise in the wage will have an immediate and positive impact on Missouri businesses. They said as lower-wage workers earn more, they will spend that new income in small, local businesses.
Both organizations also believe raising the minimum wage would help Missouri workers to afford basic necessities like food and housing.
Danielle Polk is a Certified Nursing Assistant at Bellefontaine Gardens Nursing and Rehab in St. Louis and earns an hourly wage of $9.33.
"I have to push as much as possible, so I work as much as 160 within the pay period," Polk said. "I have three daughters and one on the way, and it's very difficult to do it but I know that I have kids depending on me."
With her fourth child on the way, she's concerned that she won't be able to keep it all together under her current financial situation.
"The struggle has to go. When is it going to go? We should not have to struggle and go to another state in order to survive," Polk said.
But some legislators, including Governor Eric Greteins, don't believe an increase in wages will benefit the economy as a whole.
After the city of St. Louis passed an ordinance that authorized an annual wage increase in 2015, legislators created a bill to block the city’s increase to become law without Gretein's signature. According the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Greitens allowed the bill to pass.
“It will kill jobs,” Greitens said. “And despite what you hear from liberals, it will take money out of people’s pockets.”
The initiative will be on the ballot in November, and small business owners and workers said they hope people will vote in the initiative's favor. They said without it, people will continue to struggle.
"The economy is going up extremely and it's hard to get food stamps and health care from the state," Polk said. "I'm not asking to be rich and have all the money in the world. I'm just asking to be comfortable."