Two months ago, Cynthia Sanders got a raise at her janitorial job, from $8.30 to $10 per hour, after St. Louis passed a law raising its minimum wage. The extra money has helped the 51-year-old cover groceries and utilities as she raises three grandchildren.
But in just a few weeks, Sanders’ pay rate could drop back down again, thanks to a new law Republicans in the Missouri legislature passed invalidating St. Louis’ minimum wage.
“It was life-changing to get this, and it’s going to be life-changing to have it taken away,” said Sanders, who cleans four kitchenettes and eight bathrooms per shift at a Wells Fargo building downtown. “You’ve got children looking at you to be a provider. How do I tell them we’ve got to eat noodles again this week?”
Like other low-wage workers in Missouri and beyond, Sanders finds herself caught in a political and legal battle between local Democrats and state Republicans. As blue cities become incubators for progressive policy, their red state legislatures are trying to thwart them through “preemption laws” that forbid cities and counties from implementing their own measures related to the minimum wage, paid sick days, plastic bag taxes and other hot-button issues.
So far, Republican state legislators are winning the fight. In Missouri, for example, the GOP controls both chambers of the statehouse as well as the governor’s mansion.
Under the law Republicans passed in response to St. Louis’ new ordinance, no locality could have a minimum wage higher than the state level of $7.70 per hour. And St. Louis is not the only city immediately affected. A referendum to gradually raise the minimum wage in Kansas City to $15 was slated to go on the ballot in August.
Gov. Eric Greitens (R) said he does not intend to veto the bill. So under the rules of the Missouri Constitution it will eventually go into effect automatically, reverting the St. Louis minimum wage to $7.70 on Aug. 28. It would also preempt the minimum wage under consideration in Kansas City.
As Missouri Governor Eric Greitens lowers the minimum wage for over 35,000 working families in St. Louis, SEIU Local 1 members refuse to go down without a fight! Read the full HuffPost story, featuring Cynthia Sanders, a Local 1 janitor!