Media Coverage

Council raises Kansas City's minimum wage

Economic Security

July 16, 2015  |  KCTV5 News  |  Link to article

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

Kansas City's minimum wage would rise to $13 an hour over about four and a half years under a newly approved ordinance.

The city council voted Thursday to approve the measure about 6 p.m. Elated workers came cheering out of the Kansas City council chambers.

The ordinance establishes a minimum wage of $8.50 per hour on Aug. 24. The municipal minimum wage will then increase to $9.82 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017 and then increase the municipal minimum wage by roughly $1 per hour on Jan. 1, 2018 and annually until it hits $13 an hour on Jan. 1, 2020. Cost-of-living adjustments would be made in subsequent years.

The wage increases apply to adults 18 years old and older and calls for the changes to be made at businesses with more than 15 employees.

“This was a huge victory for the working people in Kansas City. Yay! We still have a long way to go, but this is great first step for these folks,” said Vanessa Crawford Aragon with Missouri Jobs with Justice.

It was a packed house for the city council debate and decision Thursday. Council members voted 12 to one to raise minimum wage.

“Today’s decision is about what kind of city we want to be - a city that accepts poverty wages or a city that accepts the God given dignity of every human being,” said Rev. Susan McCann.

Mayor Sly James said he and the city council decided on the wage bump because they felt it was a moral responsibility, but he warns that, while workers benefit, businesses may take a hit.

“There will be a reaction to this that we do not know. There are businesses out there that are on the margin and if they are forced to do something precipitous from a financial standpoint, they may not be able to maintain their margin,” James said.

Demonstrators from Stand-Up KC who support the hike have been fasting and camping out on the steps of City Hall since last Thursday.

The increase was less than the proposed $15. The legislation will start at a lesser amount this August and slowly increase during the next couple years.

The Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is against the proposal, noting that is goes against Missouri law and could lead to lawsuits. It is also concerned the move would drive businesses to the suburbs.

But Stand-Up KC members were confident a hike would pass after sharing their personal stories with council members throughout the week.

"It seemed like they heard us. And they were really appalled by how we were living," Wendy's employee LaToya Caldwell said. "It's hard making $7.70, and I'm a single mom of five. And right now the water is off. I go to work every day."

Members who support the raise say it’s not just an economic or social issue, it’s a moral one.

“As a mother I want to give my daughter everything that she needs and deserves in this life and I'm not the only one. There's mothers out there that want to prove more for their children because they are our future,” Osmara Ortiz said.

Councilman Ed Ford opposed the minimum wage ordinance, saying it would leave employers scrambling.

Now workers say they won’t stop until they get what they’ve been asking for all along, $15 an hour.

“The power that we've shown over the last two and a half years, overcoming together and organizing and going on strike, the results are right here ladies and gentlemen,” said Terrance Wise before letting out a cheer.

Councilman Jermaine Reed proposed the legislation and briefly spoke with Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton about his plan during her visit to Kansas City on Monday.

The current state minimum is $7.65.