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Kansas City's Effort To Raise Minimum Wage Has 'Come To A Stop'

Cody Newill
Low-wage workers and activists with Stand Up KC protested for years for a minimum wage hike, but the Missouri Legislature has effectively ended the debate.

Kansas City officials are working to dismantle both an ordinance and a coming vote for a raise in the city's minimum wage in response to a veto override by the Missouri Legislature.

The city passed an ordinance in July that would've raised the local minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020. Petitioners with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City felt that wasn't enough, so they decided to move ahead with their own petition for $15 an hour by 2020.

But Missouri lawmakers Wednesday overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill that prohibits local minimum wage ordinance. Now the city has to dismantle the election or waste $500,000 on a vote that would be illegal under new state law.

Rev. Dr. Vernon Howard with the SCLC says the Legislature's decision is an insult to low-wage workers who need higher wages to support their families.

"This is nothing short of tyranny," Howard said. "Voters would have had the opportunity to have a say as to whether the poorest of the poor working people in this city would receive not a living wage, but close to it.

"It's wrong, and we will continue to stand against this kind of brutal assault on democracy," Howard added.

Chris Hernandez with the city's communications department says the city hopes the Kansas City Board of Elections will help remove the initiative from the ballot within a few days.

"People who are minimum wage workers and have been trying to get an increase [will have to rely on] their employers, perhaps action by the Missouri General Assembly or a statewide initiative petition," Hernandez said. "The city's effort [to raise the minimum wage] has now come to a stop."

City Attorney Bill Geary is also expected to introduce an additional ordinance to dismantle the city council's $13 an hour wage hike at some point in the coming weeks.

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