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St. Louis minimum wage hike headed to court


ST. LOUIS — As almost universally predicted, the City of St. Louis will have to defend its recently passed minimum wage increase in court.

A group of organizations, mostly representing businesses, filed suit yesterday alleging that the city exceeded its power under its charter, conflicted with state law and improperly enacted a proposal which would raise the local minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018.

Some of the groups signing on to the suit include the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Missouri Restaurant Association, the Missouri Retailers Association, Associated Industries of Missouri and the National Federation of Independent Business.

The city spent much of the summer debating a minimum wage increase proposal that originally aimed at a $15 an hour wage. After the Board of Alderman failed to reach a deal on that proposal, they abruptly returned in the middle of their summer break — an unusual occurrence — to approve a plan that would implement an $8.25 minimum wage as of Oct 15. Minimum wage then increases again on Jan. 1 of 2016 to $9 an hour and one dollar per year until the $11 an hour rate in 2018.

Jane Dueker, an attorney at Spencer Fane and local politico, filed the suit in St. Louis Circuit Court where the matter could have its first hearing before a judge as early as Tuesday.

St. Louis’ push for a higher minimum wage came as both national and statewide conversations began focusing on the debate. Kansas City approved a plan to raise their own minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020. Amidst the debate last July, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill set to take effect the very same day St. Louis approved its wage hike. The bill would have prohibited any city in the state from increasing its minimum wage beyond the state level. As state lawmakers gather in Jefferson City for a special session to consider overriding Nixon on several bills, the minimum wage debate takes a special place as the Republican-led legislature looks at a potential override, further adding to the legal confusion in St. Louis.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, a vocal champion of the increase, has vowed to fight for its passage in court.