- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A new group of business owners is gathering signatures on petitions seeking to force a referendum to overturn a new law that will gradually increase Kansas City’s minimum wage to $13 an hour.

Missourians for Fair Wages, which represents restaurant, hotel and other business associations in Missouri, must collect about 3,400 signatures by Aug. 25 to challenge the minimum wage law approved by the Kansas City Council July 16. The law would raise Kansas City’s minimum wage from $7.65 per hour to $8.50 per hour on Aug. 24, with annual increases to $13 per hour by 2020. Cost-of-living adjustments would be made in subsequent years. Workers 17 and younger are exempt from the increases.

If the petition drive is successful, the council would either repeal the ordinance or put it to public vote sometime next year.

Opponents contend the increased minimum wage, which makes Kansas City the only municipality in Missouri with a wage higher than the state’s current $7.65 minimum, will hurt workers because employers will reduce the number of minimum wage jobs. Supporters of the increase say it will help lower-income workers make a living wage and improve the economy by putting more money in people’s pockets.

“The minimum wage ordinance was done quickly and is a risky experiment,” said David Jackson, spokesman for Missourians for Fair Wages. “It has the potential to cause job loss in Kansas City. If you raise the price of employment, you get less of it.”

Supporters of the new minimum wage law are “disappointed to say the least” with the new petition drive, said Caitlyn Adams, deputy director of Missouri Jobs for Justice, a social justice organization that pushed for the wage increase. The petition drive will delay the implementation of the first minimum wage increase on Aug. 24 and could push any increase into the next year if the issue is put to a public vote, she said.

“They are using this tactic to hold up an increase that Kansas City wants,” she said, noting the council approved it on a 12-1 vote after weeks of discussion among various stakeholders. “They are really taking money out of the lowest paid workers’ pockets.”

The dispute comes against the backdrop of another petition drive to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

Another group of social justice organizations, led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Kansas City, has successfully collected petitions to put that higher raise on the ballot. The group has until Friday to officially petition the city attorney to put the issue to a vote in November and has not yet decided if it will do so, said Vernon Howard, president of the conference. He declined to comment on the petition drive against the new minimum wage law.

Questions also remain about the legality of the new law because of disagreements over a 1998 law that banned counties and cities in the state’s most-populated counties from enacting minimum wages higher than those set by the state. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a bill earlier this month that would have prohibited such ordinances from being passed after Aug. 28.

___

Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide