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STL aldermen reconvene for minimum wage push


St. Louis — In an uncommon move, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen returned from their scheduled summer hiatus to move ahead with a proposal to gradually increase the city minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018.

The Board was set for their regular summer break until September, a break they went into after a series of long and sometimes bitter debates earlier this summer on various minimum wage increase plans, backed strongly by Mayor Francis Slay. The first proposal the Board considered raised the wage to $15 an hour, a number that was lowered to $13 when members came in to debate today, and ultimately lowered to $11.

Supporters of the wage increase tout the positive impact it will have on workers making the current state minimum wage of $7.65 an hour. Those supporters say the increase will make it easier for workers to support families and have access to basic resources.

But those opposed say it will push jobs further from the city into the county — where officials have made it clear no minimum wage hike is planned — and only exacerbate the city’s current struggles growing its own job market. Alderman Shane Cohn, the primary sponsor of the wage increases, and Slay have been reportedly meeting frequently with fellow members and other key players in the area ahead of today’s public debate. Slay made an appearance in support of the measure during the Board debate today, a rare occurrence for the longtime mayor.

The plan still requires another vote before Slay ultimately signs it into law. The bill would raise the wage to $8.25 an hour immediately upon passage and then to $9 an hour on Jan. 1, 2016. The wage will then increase by one dollar every Jan 1 for the next two years, reaching $11 an hour by 2018.

Kansas City approved a minimum wage increase earlier this summer as well, one that may be subject to a challenge. In Jefferson City, lawmakers approved and Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill that would have prohibited cities from increasing their own minimum wage levels after Aug. 28 of this year. Slay and his fellow wage increase supporters need to get the city’s approved before the deadline, assuming Republicans will mount an override attempt next month when they reconvene.