Minimum wage workers in St. Louis, Missouri, can expect to earn as much as $400 less per month come Aug. 28, when a "preemption" bill designed to bar cities from setting their own minimum wages takes effect. The bill, passed by GOP legislators, will reduce the city's minimum wage from $10 per hour to the statewide hourly rate of $7.70.
St. Louis workers were granted higher wages in a state Supreme Court decision to uphold a 2015 ordinance that would have raised minimum wages to $10 an hour by 2017 and $11 an hour by 2018. The original ordinance had been struck down by St. Louis Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer, who had deemed the ordinance unconstitutional by 1998 law.
According to U.S. The Associated Press, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1998 law was not constitutional since it was passed as part of an unrelated bill. St. Louis' new minimum wage went into effect on May 5, notes the St. Louis Business Journal
Missouri House representatives had tried to fast-track a bill blocking the St. Louis minimum wage in March, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. However, due to stalling by Senate Democrats, the Missouri Senate did not take up the bill until the GOP forced it through on May 12, the last day of the Missouri legislative session.
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At the time, Republican Governor Eric Greitens had the choice to sign or veto the bill. Alternatively, he could wait -- Missouri law says that any bill passed by the House and Senate will become law if not voted on by the governor in 45 days. Greitens took the latter route.
Though he did not officially sign the bill into law, Greitens criticized the St. Louis wage hike, calling it a "mistake."
"It will kill jobs," Greitens said. "Despite what you hear from liberals, it will take money out of people's pockets."
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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Greitens' refusal to sign the law was a political choice.
“Politicians in the Legislature could’ve come up with a timely solution to this problem. Instead, they dragged their feet for months,” Greitens said. “Now, because of their failures, we have different wages across the state.”
It is not yet certain just how many St. Louis employers will decide to reduce wages back to $7.70, though it is likely that the reduction will benefit employers who have been struggling to pay their employees.
MSN reports that one restaurant owner, Amer Hawatmeh, has cut operating hours, reduced portion sizes and raised food prices since the wage hike began. He believes that customers and workers should drive the minimum wage.
"That's how I built myself," Hawatmeh told MSN. "That's how I'm teaching my children to build themselves. Don't ask what do I get, ask what can I do."
Employees who have benefited from the wage hike will also be impacted by the new bill. Wanda Roberts, a St. Louis minimum wage worker, told MSN that she will "go back to struggling."
Those who oppose the bill have harshly criticized the decision, reports The Huffington Post. The Fight for $15, a union-backed organization that has supported several minimum wage efforts in cities across the U.S., said that Greitens’ neutral passing of the bill was "disgusting."
While Republicans believe that a uniform minimum wage will help the economy by putting less strain on businesses, Democratic state senator Jamilah Nasheed believes that reducing St. Louis' minimum wage will ultimately be more expensive due to increased worker reliance on Medicaid and food stamps, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Sources: MSN, AP via St. Louis Post-Dispatch, US News & World Report, St. Louis Business Journal, The Huffington Post / Photo credit: Sam valadi/Flickr, Visitjeffersoncity/Wikimedia Commons, Cristina M. Fletes via St. Louis Post Dispatch