Minimum wage fight continues after veto session

Posted at 10:21 PM, Sep 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 23:21:46-04

Kansas City leaders are ready to fight back after state lawmakers voted to prohibit cities from establishing minimum wages higher than the state's rate.

On Wednesday, state lawmakers met in Jefferson City for the annual veto session where the Republican-led legislature successfully secured enough votes to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto.

"For folks to come to Jeff City and take power away from city councils and mayors and others in areas that they traditionally have had a good level of control, they know their economies a little bit better at that local level, I thought was a mistake by the legislature," Nixon said.

"The people who are being affected the most are the ones who can least afford to be affected and that doesn't seem to matter. It has to matter here because we see those people every single day. We are accountable," said Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James.

James and other leaders in Kansas City voiced their disapproval Thursday and vowed to continue the fight.

"What the lawmakers did was callous, cold-hearted and insensitive to thousands," said Dr. Vernon Howard, who would like to see the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour. "We plan on taking action."

Howard told 41 Action News he believes there are many legal questions surrounding the new law. Under Missouri's constitution, a bill can only address one subject. The minimum wage bill initially prohibited cities from passing ordinances, such as banning plastic bags. Lawmakers then added minimum wage and employee benefits to the bill.

"We are looking at multiple avenues," said Howard.

Proponents of the new law disagree. Patrick Tuohey with the Show-Me Institute said the new law enforces an already existing law.

"I think it's clear [cities] were never in a position to increase wages above what the state legislature indicated," he said. "I think it would be an uphill climb to say that any money spent challenging state law is worthwhile because the language is very clear."

"There are what, over a hundred million workers in this country? So the power is truly with the workers, and coming into an election year next year, we'll just take our strength in numbers and the power we're building in the workplace and take it to the ballot box next year," Terrence Wise, a crew member at Burger King and McDonald's, said.

This summer, the Kansas City City Council passed an ordinance to raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2020. Now, that ordinance would be moot.


Ariel Rothfield can be reached at

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