After a minimum wage hike to $7.50 an hour went into effect in January, the Missouri House is considering legislation that could raise the state minimum to $10 an hour.
Rep. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, is the sponsor of the bill. She said she believes it is important to raise minimum wage again because the cost of living is steadily increasing while the minimum wage is not. Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do to keep up with inflation, she said.
The bill is seen as a long shot in the Republican-led legislature, but Nasheed said she is working extremely hard to get it out of committee and onto the floor.
“People who work hard deserve to get paid decent wages,” Nasheed said. “They deserve to have enough money to accompany the rising cost of living.”
Karen Buschmann, vice president of communications at the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, said a large increase in minimum wage would force smaller businesses to fire employees to stay afloat.
“As the minimum wage increases, the ability of employers to continue to employ workers is damaged, particularly affecting entry-level workers,” Buschmann said.
Around three-fourths of minimum wage earners work hourly part-time jobs.
Buschmann said that while some people will benefit from a minimum wage increase, others will lose their jobs or employers will not be able to expand. She said many workers could also see hours reduced.
Nasheed said she does not believe this to be the case, citing a 2010 minimum wage hike in Illinois that raised the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour.
“There has not been a study to confirm this,” Nasheed said. “Illinois increased their minimum wage recently and they did not see an increase in unemployment as a result. Employees work harder when they feel like they’re being paid a fair wage.”
MU economics professor Michael Podgursky said he thinks there are better alternatives to a minimum wage hike.
“Raising the minimum wage nationally or in any state is a bad idea,” Podgursky said. “It will push the least skilled out of the labor market and only marginally benefit the working poor.”
Podgursky said expanding earned income tax credits is a better idea, as it avoids pushing low-skilled workers out of the labor market.
The biggest obstacle Nasheed said her legislation faces is the challenge of informing others in the legislature how minimum wage workers need to provide for their families. She plans to show her colleagues how an increase in minimum wage will positively impact their respective constituencies.
“Not all restaurant workers are looking for a handout,” Nasheed said. “These people are willing to work, and it’s important we respect their dignity.”