Proposed St. Louis Minimum Wage Hike Could Be Headed to Court

By Pistor, Nicholas Jc | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 6, 2015 | Go to article overview

Proposed St. Louis Minimum Wage Hike Could Be Headed to Court


Pistor, Nicholas Jc, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


ST. LOUIS * Officials on Friday readied for a long, hot summer spurred by the filing of a bill to double the city's minimum wage over the state rate, while lawyers turned their eyes to the courts.

The bill, which would create a minimum wage of $15 in the city by 2020, was officially introduced at the Board of Aldermen by Alderman Shane Cohn on Friday.

A pending state bill would require the local measure to be approved by the board and signed by the mayor before Aug. 28 a daunting task for a body that normally takes a two-month summer break during July and August.

The board's aldermanic chamber doesn't have air conditioning, meaning the temperature inside will be just as heated as the debate itself.

The bill was the product of months of planning for a potential legal battle if anyone challenges whether a city can set a minimum wage above the state's minimum of $7.65.

"We were proactive, and we know that this is something people will try to throw in our way by going to the courts," said Winston Calvert, the city counselor appointed by Mayor Francis Slay.

So far, various business groups have organized to oppose the minimum wage hike, but none have officially announced plans for a legal challenge.

Calvert prepared a legal brief to accompany the bill, writing: "Some have contended that a minimum wage ordinance would be pre- empted by state law. There is one statute still on the books ... that prohibits municipal minimum wage ordinances, but that statute was declared unconstitutional in 2001."

Still, a 2014 Missouri Supreme Court decision restricted charter counties, like St. Louis, from creating laws contrary to state law which could throw the matter into legal controversy. Calvert argues that the state simply sets a floor for wages, and the city can set something higher than that floor.

The wage issue has grown in popularity across the nation, most notably in Los Angeles, where the City Council voted to raise its minimum wage to $15 from $9 an hour by 2020.

Some have questioned why St. Louis would try to match Los Angeles' rate since that city has a significantly higher cost of living.

Slay held a news conference on Thursday and said $15 is the goal, but indicated officials may settle on something lower. Still, Slay forcefully declared: "Make no mistake about it. We are raising the minimum wage in St. …

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