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Minimum Wage Workers Rally As Uncertainly Looms About Kansas City Ordinance

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Elle Moxley
/
KCUR
Stand Up KC is leading the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage in Kansas City.

Kansas City restaurant workers rallied in Westport Thursday afternoon to show solidarity with fast-food employees in New York, where a wage board has voted to increase the minimum wage to $15.

“I think everyone should know that for a better economy, better neighborhoods, everyone should be paid well,” says Terrence Wise, who works more than 60 hours a week at McDonald’s and Burger King. “If workers in general have more money, then they have more money to spend and boost the economy.”

Wise says working two low-wage jobs doesn’t leave a lot of time for his family: a fiancée and three daughters, ages 10, 12 and 14.

He says Missouri’s $7.65 an hour minimum wage isn’t enough to lift them out of poverty.

“It forces people that are living in poverty to make decisions that they normally wouldn’t make,” Wise says. “I know good people that commit crimes basically because they don’t have a living wage.”

After a triple murder Tuesday night, both Kansas City’s mayor and police chief decried a recent uptick in violent crime.

“I think whenever you have a deficiency in jobs, that’s going to produce crime,” says Rev. Rodney Williams of the Swope Parkway United Christian Church.

For Williams, advocating for a $15 an hour minimum wage is a moral issue tied to his Christian faith.

But the issue has become muddied in Kansas City in recent weeks. There will be two initiative petitions on the Nov. 3 ballot — one in favor of a $15 an hour minimum wage, one opposed — but even that’s dependent on the outcome of next week’s veto session.

Missouri lawmakers tried to bar cities from increasing local wages above the state minimum, but Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed that legislation.

If lawmakers override the governor’s veto, it would make the election a moot point.

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