Derik Holtmann / Belleville News-Democrat / AP

St. Louis considers becoming next city to set $15 minimum wage

Mayor Francis Slay says he supports efforts to raise minimum wage to as much as $15 per hour by 2020

St. Louis might soon be the next U.S. city to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour, following the example of Los Angeles and a handful of other West Coast urban centers. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay this week said he supports a proposal to raise the city’s wage floor to $15 per hour by 2020.

Other cities, mostly on the West Coast, have signed off on similar wage hikes over the past two years. San Francisco and Seattle will phase in minimum wage increases, reaching $15 per hour in several years, and the smaller town of SeaTac, Washington, set a $15 hourly minimum for certain workers on in 2014.

The low-wage worker organizing campaign Fight for $15 is responsible for popularizing the $15 minimum. The movement, which over the past three years has expanded from organizing citywide fast food worker strikes to leading nationwide protests across multiple industries, has listed a $15 floor for low-wage workers as a key demand.

St. Louis Alderman Shane Cohn, who will introduce the $15 minimum wage legislation on Friday, told Al Jazeera he is a longtime supporter of the Fight for $15 campaign. The current Missouri minimum wage — $7.65 per hour, just 40 cents higher than the federal minimum — is not enough to live on, he said.

“Fifteen dollars represents a wage at which people can afford food, can afford to live and can afford to save for retirement,” he said.

Bettie Douglas, a McDonald’s worker affiliated with the St. Louis chapter of the Fight for $15 campaign, praised the proposed wage hike in a statement.

"My gas was recently shut off, and it is virtually impossible to feed my 14-year-old son on just $7.65 an hour. Mothers like me shouldn’t have to worry about putting food in our kids’ mouths, especially when we work for multibillion-dollar companies like McDonald’s," she said. "We applaud Mayor Slay for sticking up for the tens of thousands of workers like me in our city who are living in crushing poverty. And we’ll keep standing up and speaking out until we win $15 and union rights."

If Cohn’s proposal is approved, then St. Louis will be the first city outside the West Coast to pass a $15 minimum wage law. (Chicago voters approved a ballot measure in March advising the city to raise its minimum wage to $15, but the measure was nonbinding.)

Slay has taken action to raise wages in St. Louis once before. In 2014, shortly after President Barack Obama announced he would issue an executive order to lift the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10, Slay said he would have local regulations amended so that part-time city employees and city contractors would receive that wage as well.

If St. Louis intends to raise its minimum wage, it will need to do so before Aug. 28. That is when a state law passed in May is expected to take effect that will bar Missouri cities from setting wage floors higher than the state minimum wage.

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