Missouri Legislators’ Interference Has Cost St. Louis Workers at Least $35 Million in Long-Overdue Raises

In August 2015, St. Louis approved a local ordinance raising the city’s minimum wage.  The ordinance was a response to the fact that Missouri’s minimum wage was just $7.65 and had increased only 40 cents in the previous seven years.  The legislature reacted by passing a new law attempting to ban cities from raising the minimum wage.  Last month, however, a unanimous Missouri Supreme Court ruled that state law did not prevent the St. Louis minimum wage law from taking effect, meaning that at least 35,000 workers in the city would be entitled to a raise to $10 an hour this year—and to $11 in 2018.  Now, the Missouri legislature is attempting once again to undermine local powers and pass a new law blocking the raise.

Drawing on data from the Economic Policy Institute, this policy brief estimates the pay raise that St. Louis’s lowest-paid workers have been denied to date by the legislature.  It finds that a total of 35,287 St. Louis workers have been denied raises totaling $34,828,105 between October 2015 and March 2017.  It also finds that St. Louis’s lowest paid workersthose earning between the Missouri minimum wage of $7.65 and $8.25would have received an average raise of $2,394 per year.  That’s a huge loss for workers whose annual incomes average about $12,500 per year.

It also provides demographic data on the ages and family status of workers denied raises.  It estimates that 76% of workers denied raises are older than 25 and 37% are older than 40.  It also estimates that 31% of children in the city are in households with a worker denied a raise.

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