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Slay to push for minimum wage hike despite legislature’s objections

Saint Louis, Mo. — Mayor Francis Slay and Alderman Shane Cohn told reporters today that they would be working together to push for a higher minimum wage in the City of St. Louis despite lawmakers in Jefferson City passing a bill earlier this year that would block local cities from doing just that.

In May, lawmakers in Jefferson City passed HB 722, a bill that prohibits local governments from, among other things, raising their minimum wage to exceed the state’s $7.65/hour rate. Supporters of the bill at the time said something like a minimum wage standard should be established on the state level to give businesses some clarity statewide. Detractors said the bill flew in the face of the principles of small government and local control.

The bill is not retroactive, and even clarifies that any city that implements a minimum wage standard higher than the state level before August 28 of this year will not be forced to lower it when the bill takes effect. While Slay appears to be working to make that deadline, city officials maintain that, through the Board of Aldermen, they can raise the city’s minimum wage at any time.

“Raising the minimum wage helps build an economy that works for everyone,” Slay said at a crowded press conference. “Everyone who works hard deserves to make a living.”

Slay and Cohn appeared at a packed press conference with dozens of activists and representatives from Missouri Jobs with Justice, a 501(c)4 labor and community coalition that has advocated for higher wages, Medicaid expansion, against Right-to-Work, and more.

Cohn will be formally introducing a bill to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen this week and already has a handful of co-sponsors, including Board President Lewis Reed.

Slay has already called on Nixon to veto HB 722, which may not serve as the final word on the legislation. The senate advanced 722 with a veto proof majority and the House was only a few votes shy of the same.

The move in St. Louis comes just one day after Secretary of State Jason Kander approved three initiative petitions for circulation that seek to raise Missouri’s minimum wage over several years. If the initiatives meet the minimum signature requirements around the state, they’ll end up on the 2016 ballot.

Each would increase the current minimum wage to $9 per hour before gradually increasing it at various rates, depending on the petition.