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Missouri minimum wage set to increase in 2024, many KC businesses already pay above new minimum

lutfis fried fish workers.png
Posted at 7:20 PM, Dec 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-29 20:20:06-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s minimum wage for all private and non-exempt businesses is set to increase from $12 per hour to $12.30 per hour in 2024.

According to the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, employers are required to pay tipped employees at least 50% of the minimum wage, meaning tipped employees would make at least $6.15 per hour, plus any amount necessary to match their total compensation with the $12.30 per hour minimum.

With the increase, employees working 40-hour work weeks will earn an additional $12 weekly.

Missouri's new minimum wage in 2024 will be the state’s eighth increase since 2015, when minimum wage sat at $7.65 per hour. Missouri's 2015 minimum wage was more than Kansas' current minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour.

Kansas City's placement as a bi-state labor market means disparities in minimum wage pay exists in the metro community. It also means that for people residing on the Kansas side, they will not experience a wage increase this year.

Clyde McQueen is the founder and CEO of the Full Employment Council in Kansas City, Missouri. In his 37 years of working to help KCMO residents obtain jobs, he says he’s learned that the state minimum wage is a metric and not a model.

“When you look at minimum wage, it’s always the floor,” McQueen said. “It’s never the ceiling, and it’s where you start, but the market drives the rest.”

He says Kansas City has transformed tremendously since he started in his role, and because of this, the employers he works with can’t attract workers with low wages.

“Kansas City region is really growing," he said. "It’s exploding with opportunities, particularly in higher paying jobs."

McQueen says Kansas City has set a precedent as a city known to have wages much higher than the minimum wage, as evidenced by the $15 minimum wage for KC Unified Government staff.

These higher paying jobs means employers must pay above the minimum wage, even if it’s by a few dollars.

It’s what the owner of Lutfi’s Fried Fish on Prospect, Khadijah Khalifah, says she aims to do. After years of learning from the original owners, her parents, she has stepped up to own and operate multiple Lutfi’s locations in the Kansas City area.

Khalifah says years ago, the gap between wages and her employees’ pay was much greater.

“When minimum wage was like $7, we could pay people like $10, $12,” she said. “Now that minimum wage is 12, it’s like now we’re having to pay people 15, 17 just so they can take care of themselves and their families.”

She says rising food and production costs have made it harder to check off the to-do list of things she has to take care of as the owner.

“You have to pay taxes, you have to pay the utilities, you have to pay the rent, you have to pay the insurance, you have to pay the payroll, you have to pay the maintenance,” Khalifah said.

Once those things are taken care of, she's not left with much to add to employees’ wages, thus resulting in a smaller gap between the state mandated wage and what employees take home.

“With it being mandated like this, it’s different because we don’t even have an option to like, 'Oh, we’re gonna pay you way more than minimum wage, now we’re only gonna be able to pay you like a dollar maybe more,’” Khalifah said.

It’s something she wishes wasn’t the case, especially considering the fact that for every employee she has, it’s someone with a life outside of work.

“They have children, they have houses, they have cars,” she said. “Some days are good, some days are bad, and it’s like, the employees, they can feel that impact too.”

Those external factors are what McQueen says are important to keep in mind when understanding the idea of wages, and that solely having high wages doesn’t necessarily mean employees will be able to retain their jobs.

“It’s more than just a black and white proposition of dollars and cents,” McQueen said. “It’s more of a whole system of how can we do it. How does the transportation fit in with the childcare expense fit in with the housing? All those type of things.”

In a perfect world, Khalifah wouldn’t have the restraints she does.

“If I could afford to pay them $20 or $30 an hour, I would, and I tell them this all the time,” she said.

But it’s her employees’ response that lets her know that she’s not in this alone.

“They’re like, ‘Whatever you give me, I’m gonna come in because I need that,’" she said.