What you may not know about the raise in minimum wage

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COLUMBIA - Missouri citizens voted in November to increase minimum wage by 85 cents over the next four years until 2023 when it reaches $12. 

There are several aspects of Proposition B some voters may not be be aware of. Some of those aspects have employers concerned, but others are supporting the upcoming changes. 

For one, Proposition B exempts government employers from the raise in minimum wage, including city governments. Some city employers are concerned they will struggle to stay competitive if they do not raise their wages.

Director of Parks and Recreation in Centralia, Erle Bennett, currently hires many high schoolers to work for the department.

"What I would see happening is there's probably going to be fewer entry level jobs for kids," said Bennett.

He is concerned if he cannot pay young workers a competitive wage it will effect the workforce he brings in. 

"There are some jobs that we basically want our pick of kids. I mean we want the best kids," he said. 

Bennett added this is especially important for jobs like life guards where they are protecting members of the public. He is also concerned the pay scale will change dramatically, which he said could have a negative psychological effect on his employees.

"Right now we have more or less a pay scale where different jobs, lets say working in concessions pays one thing, working as a receptionist at the rec center pays one thing, working maintenance in the park pays one thing. Typically that's based on the skill level or the amount of, the difficulty of the work they're going to do," Bennett said. "What I can see happening is we will probably do away with the yearly increase and the minimum wage will become the maximum wage for many of those jobs." 

Bennett said employees who have worked for the department for many years would probably be unhappy they were making the same wage as entry level jobs. He also said the department is also looking at cutting some jobs in order to be able to pay competitive wages without having to raise prices for the public.

Bennett said government employers may be at an advantage of out competing private businesses by not having to pay all of their employees the higher minimum wage.

He also said it will help government entities because people have limited disposable income and are only willing to pay so much to utilize places like the public pool and the recreation center.

The University of Missouri is also exempt from the changes in minimum wage because it is a state institution.

According to Director of the University of Missouri News Bureau, Christian Basi, most of the jobs at the university pay more than minimum wage. However, some positions like part time seasonal work do not. He said the university is also looking at ways to stay competitive.

"What we're really focused on is making sure we have a competitive wage package because we know that our wages are key to attracting good, top notch faculty and staff," said Basi.

He said the university is currently in the middle of a wage raise program that will also help stay competitive.

Basi added it is important for the university to stay competitive in order to attract the best people for the job.

Some small businesses are also exempt from the changes. Service or retail employers whose annual gross sales are less than $500,000 do not have to pay the higher minimum wage. 

The changes to the minimum wage in Missouri will also effect tipped employees. Missouri labor laws allow these employers to pay tipped employees less than minimum wage.

In 2019 employers will have to pay tipped employees fifty percent of minimum wage, $4.30 per hour, plus the amount necessary to bring their wage up to minimum wage after tips. 

One server said even the small raise in wages will help tipped employees. 

Brian Berwanger works at Sycamore in downtown Columbia as a server. He said the increase in minimum wage will give tipped employees more of an expected, continuous income.

"In my experience, working the night shift the tips are high enough that the majority of our wages actually goes towards paying the taxes on those tips so our checks can be very small, even sometimes non existent," Berwanger said. 

"Having an increase in minimum wage, it will benefit us in so much that we'll have an actual paycheck in addition to tips because right now I don't expect to get a paycheck. It's just a little something extra on the side."

He said the increase will also save money in the long run. 

"We need to do something to increase the incomes of the working people because those who aren't making enough to live on, then they are dependent upon welfare, food stamps, which comes out of our tax dollars. 

Berwanger said prices could increase because of the higher wages, but he said it will reach an equilibrium eventually.

Lastly, Proposition B states employers who do not pay minimum wage and are not exempt can be fined. Anyone who is not being paid the proper wage can report it to the Missouri Department of Labor.

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