On Kansas City Council’s Vote to Raise City’s Minimum Wage to $13

The following statement is from National Employment Law Project executive director Christine Owens:

“The fight to raise wages for underpaid workers struggling to get by has moved to the heartland. Kansas City joins a growing list of state and municipal governments addressing the crises of poverty wages and income inequality by raising its minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020.

“While median incomes in Kansas City are among the highest in Missouri, so too is the city’s poverty level, which at 19.1 percent, exceeds both state and national rates. Housing costs in Kansas City are greater than throughout most of the state: the hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the city is $17.13. Indeed, the living wage for an adult with one child—the amount needed to provide adequate support for a basic lifestyle—is $21 an hour. Thus, even at $13 an hour, Kansas City workers will be challenged to support themselves and their families. Nevertheless, the proposal is a meaningful step in the direction of lifting workers from poverty; lifting from taxpayers the unfair burden of subsidizing companies that pay wages so low their employees must rely on public assistance; and lifting the local economy, which will benefit from the boost in spending higher wages will provide. The exemption for young workers, however, is plain wrong. It’s both unfair to teens and could lead to discrimination against older jobseekers.

“Kansas City’s action is the latest in a string of very recent efforts that have shifted the terrain in the Fight for $15 and transformed the national debate about wage increases. Just last month, home care workers in Massachusetts won $15. Next week, the New York wage board is expected to recommend a significant increase in pay for fast-food workers statewide. And America’s second-largest city, Los Angeles, is raising pay to $15. SeaTac, San Francisco, Emeryville, and Seattle have already adopted $15 minimum wages. Chicago has adopted a $13 rate.

“Today, we’re talking about Kansas City, but the march toward fair wages and the right to form a union will not stop there. Measures in New York, California, Oregon, and Massachusetts propose $15 rates for all workers or workers in specific sectors. And more proposals are pending or planned for Washington, DC, Portland, ME, Olympia and Takoma, WA, and Sacramento and Davis, CA. The Fight for $15 is unstoppable—and all of us will benefit as it progresses and more and more low-wage workers reap the benefits of this crucial campaign for economic opportunity and fairness for all who work in America.”

National Employment Law Project
For Immediate Release: July 16, 2015
Contact: Anna Susman, 646.200-5285, anna.susman@berlinrosen.com

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