City ordinances, state laws reveal unclear future for KC minimum wage hike

Posted at 5:31 PM, Sep 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-04 18:31:29-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Politicians, labor leaders, and minimum wage workers joined forces Monday to call for a $15 minimum wage in Kansas City.

"No matter how many times they kick us down, we've got to get up and go at least one more round," Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Missouri) passionately told the crowd.

One more round in a campaign marked by conflict between the state and local governments. In August, Kansas City voters approved a minimum wage hike that would eventually reach $15, but Missouri law doesn't allow cities to set their own wage levels. 

Nonetheless, City Council is set to consider two ordinances to bolster what one critic has dubbed its "imaginary minimum wage."

One of the two ordinances says businesses that don't voluntarily comply with the wage passed by voters will not be eligible for city contracts.


"You don't get to keep taking bites out of the same apple. That is now effectively against the law, to set your own minimum wage," Kevin McEvoy, who is running for City Council, said of the ordinance.

McEvoy spent 15 years working in restaurants and managing employees. He currently works as a sales manager for a local steel company and has been a vocal critic not only of the city's most recent ordinance but also of the $15 minimum wage one.

McEvoy is concerned the higher rate will hurt small businesses and prove unhelpful to employees in the long run. 

"It is a crucial element of the American economy that the young and inexperienced have the opportunity to get entry-level positions and grow their skill sets," McEvoy said.

Council members will also consider an ordinance that would recognize and honor employers who voluntarily raise wages.

While the fight for a higher minimum wage plays out in Kansas City, there's also an effort to bring the minimum wage to a statewide vote. Raise Up Missouri is leading the charge with a petition campaign to put the measure on the November 2018 ballot. Supporters have until the first week of May to sign the petition.