- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis’ embattled minimum wage hike will take effect Friday following a two-year legal fight over the city’s effort to require employees to pay workers at least $10 an hour.

A circuit court judge lifted an injunction on Thursday that had blocked a 2015 ordinance from becoming law. The city’s minimum wage will rise again in January, to $11 per hour, significantly higher than Missouri’s $7.70 minimum. The increase is expected to give an immediate raise to roughly 35,000 workers.

The city said it was mailing notices to employers. Those who refuse to pay workers the new minimum could face criminal prosecution and loss of their business license and occupancy permit.

St. Louis joins about 40 other cities that have raised their minimum wages in recent years, including Seattle, Los Angeles and Chicago, though it doesn’t go as high as the $15 wage being phased in for some places.

The city was sued soon after the St. Louis aldermen approved the phased-in minimum wage plan in 2015. The Missouri Retailers Association, the Missouri Restaurant Association and other opponents argued wage should be uniform across the state.

The fight made it to the Missouri Supreme Court, which sided with the city on Tuesday, meaning the wage increase would take effect once the circuit judge, Steven Ohmer, lifted an injunction.

The increase means workers making minimum wage in St. Louis will make, on average, $2,400 more each year. Among those workers is Bettie Douglas, a McDonald’s workers and leader of the group Show Me $15.

“This raise to $11/hour will help us keep the lights on and put food on the table, and is a major step to getting the $15/hour and union rights we’ve been demanding for the past four years,” Douglas said in a statement Thursday.

Opponents criticized the move. David Overfelt, president of the Missouri Retailers Association, said enacting the higher wage “will only hurt citizens that need to develop work skills and find employment.” He said many businesses will likely exit the city “and workers will have to travel farther to find jobs.”

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