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Minimum-Wage Increase: Real Change or Pocket Change?

PHOTO: Missouri joins 12 other states in raising the minimum wage, but some say those extra nickels and dimes won't go far toward helping the plight of the state's working poor. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Missouri joins 12 other states in raising the minimum wage, but some say those extra nickels and dimes won't go far toward helping the plight of the state's working poor. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
January 3, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The New Year brings welcome news for more than 100,000 Missouri workers in the form of an increase in the state's minimum wage.

But advocates for workers say it will take much more to move Missouri forward.

A law passed by voters in 2006 mandated an annual cost-of-living adjustment in the state's minimum wage, which took the rate from $7.35 per hour last year to $7.50 per hour as of Jan. 1.

Lara Granich, director of the advocacy group Missouri Jobs with Justice, says the 15 cents per hour increase is a step in the right direction, but doesn't go far enough.

"Really, all the cost-of-living adjustment does is make sure people don't fall any further behind,” she points out. “It makes sure you can buy as much bread and milk at the corner store next year as you could this year."

Missouri is one of 13 states with minimum-wage increases that took effect Jan. 1, and one of 20 states with a rate above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Granich says in addition to a more substantial increase in pay, lifting the state's working-class families out of poverty and helping them regain economic stability will take a multi-pronged approach.

"The expansion of Medicaid this session in Missouri is going to be critical to reach a lot of these workers,” she explains. “Collective bargaining rights – the idea that workers should be able to kind of raise their living standards by bargaining for a fair wage with their employers – is really important.”

The Obama administration supports legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, but the bill has met resistance from Republicans in Congress.


Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO