Proposition B calls for an increase in Missouri’s minimum wage from the federally mandated $5.15 an hour to $6.50 an hour and for an adjustment for inflation every year thereafter.
The federal minimum wage has not changed since 1997, but 20 states and the District of Columbia already require higher minimums. North Carolina and Pennsylvania will join their ranks on Jan. 1.
Give Missourians a Raise, the committee responsible for putting Proposition B on the ballot, said data from the 1997 increase in the federal minimum wage and later state-based raises show they increased earnings for low-wage workers without causing a loss of jobs or small businesses.
Proponents also say that a higher minimum wage would stimulate the economy by boosting the buying power of lower-wage workers.
MU sociology professor Victoria Johnson says the buying power of $5.15 an hour has decreased over the past nine years and also noted that people who earn more money are less likely to depend on expensive state services.
Save Our State’s Jobs, a group made up of six Missouri business organizations, is the primary opposition to an increase in minimum wage. Its major concern is that if the increase passes, companies will relocate to other states. Other opponents say a higher minimum wage would hurt small businesses and the economy by making labor more expensive and increasing the cost of goods and services.
Sharon Ryan, a professor of economics at MU, says a higher minimum wage could hurt workers because employers required to pay more would be reluctant to take a chance on inexperienced applicants.
A study by the not-for-profit Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., estimated that approval of Proposition B would directly affect 120,000 minimum-wage workers in Missouri and perhaps result in a raise for 136,000 more as employers adjust their pay scales. The report cited studies that showed no evidence of job loss or a decrease in job growth in states with minimum wages higher than the federal minimum.