As an active supporter and champion of increasing the minimum wage for some of the hardest working people in our city, I am disappointed in and cannot support the latest version of Board Bill #83 that was circulated to the Board of Aldermen. I cannot imagine anyone that is a supporter of working families agreeing to the numerous exemptions that leaves behind so many in our community.
The purpose of a minimum wage is to protect workers and raise the standard of living for some of the lowest paid workers in our workforce. I put my name on the original Board Bill #83 as a co-sponsor as a demonstration of my support for increasing the minimum wage. The latest version of the minimum wage proposal falls way short of bringing relief to working families while at the same time institutes new systems of inequities, disincentives for students, and loopholes that could lead to pay decreases instead of increases.
Below are the employees that would not receive the proposed minimum wage as outlined in the most recent version of the legislation, and why I oppose exempting them from a fair wage:
Employees with Disabilities – Under the proposed substitute board bill, an employer could pay someone with a physical or mental disability less than our newly instituted minimum wage. This would be discriminatory and is based on a false assumption that disabled workers are less productive than non disabled workers, and would lead to exploitation of a vulnerable segment of our community. It’s important to note that people living with disabilities are people working to support their families, working to pay their rent, electric and gas bills, working to provide better lives for themselves and their children. A fair wage is a fair wage, for everyone.
In Home Service Workers – We should not exempt in home service workers from the provisions of this minimum wage bill. These are people that go into the homes of our city residents and provide care to residents that cannot provide basic care for themselves. We cannot create a tier that devalues the work these individuals do. We have to hold the State of Missouri accountable for providing these activities with a reimbursement rate that will allow a fair wage to these workers. With the aging population of the baby boomers this will continue to be a growing and important segment of the workforce in the City of St. Louis.
Full-Time Students –St. Louis schools are struggling with a very high dropout rate, and we cannot create a disincentive to remaining in school. In short, under the current proposal, high school students would make more if they drop out of school. This is not a system any responsible lawmaker should support or stand behind.
Students in a Work Study Program – Why should students in a work study program get paid less than minimum wage? If they are providing services they should get paid the minimum wage.
Employees at Child Care Centers – This is huge workforce population in the city of St. Louis and it is not fair that this group should be excluded from the minimum wage. It is critical that we have the best pool of workers possible to care for our children. Exempting these employees reduces the quality of that pool.
Employees at assisted living, residential care, or nursing home facilities – These employees should receive the minimum wage for taking care of our elderly population.
Employees who work for a governmental entity - Governmental employees should fall under the same minimum wage as all other workers in the City of St. Louis. Why should the City of St Louis pass an ordinance which impacts businesses throughout our city and exempt one of the largest employers in the city, our own city government? Our city employees deserve to be included.
As stated earlier this minimum wage proposal falls far short of bringing relief to working families while at the same time institutes new systems of inequities, disincentives for students, and loopholes that could lead to pay decreases instead of increases.
I was glad to see that Governor Nixon vetoed House Bill 722. This house bill has been cited as a law that put a deadline of August 28th on cities’ ability to institute their own minimum wage. Now that we have additional time, we can work together to come up with a version of legislation that covers all of our working families and that is responsible to our local economy.
I will move to eliminate these exemptions from any legislation before the Board of Aldermen.
We cannot discriminate when it comes to increasing the minimum wage. Everyone who works in our community deserves it. It is the bare minimum. We cannot leave people out of the equation in a rush to compromise. I look forward to continuing to work with the members of the Board of Aldermen and the other stakeholders in our community on improving the current legislation and providing some relief to workers in the City of St. Louis.
Lewis E. Reed